David Smith. Medal for Dishonor: Death by Gas. 1939-40

David Smith Medal for Dishonor: Death by Gas 1939-40

  • Not on view

This sculpture is part of a series of fifteen small bronze medals Smith made early in his career in response to the growth of fascism in Europe in the years leading up to World War II. He developed the project after spending time in Greece, where he studied ancient coins and seals, and in London, where he saw medals that satirized figures and events from World War I. Smith approached the tradition of military decoration and commemorative medallions—symbols of glory and distinction—with bitter irony. His bronzes "honor" some of war's most deplorable actions: the bombing of civilians, human medical experimentation, and, in this case, the use of poisonous gas as a weapon. The graphic iconography of the medals is drawn from sources ranging from Northern Renaissance painting to photographs in medical textbooks.

Gallery label from 2011.
10 3/8 × 11 3/8 × 1 1/4" (26.4 × 28.9 × 3.2 cm)
Given anonymously
Object number
Painting and Sculpture

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