The wars of
the twentieth century, their losses, and their toll on humanity
are a frequent and important theme in the work of Christian Petersen.
Though he is often known as the gentle sculptor, Petersen
gave much attention to the subject of warfare. To some extent,
his entire life might be said to be based on a reaction to war
since it was avoidance of the German military that prompted his
family to emigrate from Denmark in 1893. Petersen lived through
World War I, and sculpture on this theme constituted some of his
earliest and most successful commissions.
War II erupted, Petersen had been sculptor-in-residence at Iowa
State for seven years, and its effect on college-age students
was something he felt strongly. His work of the war years expresses
the sacrifice and tragedy of the global fight. The theme continued
to be important in the post-war years when he designed a number
of proposals for war memorials, all of which focused not on victory,
but on the sorrow and loss of war. By the late 1940s, his strong
sentiments began to combine with his religious life after he joined
the Catholic Church. It seems he often portrayed Christ as the
victim of mankinds warring ways.