Arne Ekeland was a communist, as often evinced by his art, and many consider The last Shots to be his political manifesto. The painting is highly complex in regard to form, colour, and content. To the right, a column of people rise up, with those at the top bearing weapons aimed at three desolate figures on an island who are partially hidden by the ruins of a church and a columned building. The three figures – a priest with a collar, a military man in uniform, and a representative of the moneyed interests – can be seen as symbolizing the capitalist society that Ekeland wanted to topple. In the background lies a city in ruins, but in the foreground, among the destruction and the fallen, little children are on the verge of creating a new society.
The picture is monumental in both size and content. The figures are elongated and elegant, inspired by the Italian Renaissance art that Ekeland had seen on his trips to Italy. He was also inspired by German expressionism, French cubism, Byzantine art, and the fragmented tesserae of mosaics. The way in which Ekeland divides up colours and shapes and juxtaposes them has a decorative effect.
Ekeland came from Bøn, near Eidsvoll, and lived there most of his life. He was a student of Axel Revold at the National Academy of Art in Oslo. The last Shots was first displayed at a solo exhibition at Kunstnernes Hus in Oslo on 4 April 1940, five days before the German invasion of Norway; two years later it was included in the “Art and Degenerate Art” exhibition at the National Gallery.
Text: Marianne Yvenes
From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0