Robert Indiana’s Hartley Elegies (1989–94) is a series of 18 paintings inspired by Marsden Hartley’s War Motif series, which Hartley executed as a tribute to the young German soldier Karl von Freyburg, who died during World War I and with whom Hartley had a deep friendship. Indiana employed Hartley’s stylized visual language throughout the Elegies, while reinvesting them with additional content and meaning.
KvF VIII is one of six diamond shaped canvases in the series. Its red, yellow, and black German flag inspired color scheme links the work to KvF III, however its design is more closely related to KvF II. In both KvF VIII and KvF II Indiana emphasized the relationship between Karl von Freyburg and Marsden Hartley by incorporating their names into a ring surrounding the central circle. The numeral 24 appears within the circle, below the Iron Cross, the medal von Freyburg received just prior to his death at the age of 24.