War Artists of WW1
Forty years years ago I paid my first visit to the Imperial War Museum in London and I was stunned by the stark images of WW1 which were so graphically portrayed by the war artists. These images have stayed with me forever. I can remember standing before this painting and just looking, looking, looking....
The Menin Road
|Imperial War Museum, London|
Paul Nash born in London in 1889 was a surrealist painter who produced some of the most iconic images of the First World War. He enlisted in 1914 as a private for the Home Service in the Artists Rifles. He was sent to the Western Front in February 1917 as a second lieutenant in the Hampshire Regiment. Based at St Eloi on the Ypres Salient, Nash endured the war until an accident in May 1917 invalided him back to London. During his recuperation, Nash produced a series of drawings in ink, chalk and watercolour which depicted his personal images of the war. He exhibited these pictures to great acclaim, which resulted in his approaching Charles Masterman who was head of the government's War Propaganda Bureau. In November 1917, Nah returned to the Ypres Salient as an official war artist.
Spring in the Trenches, Ridge Wood , 1917
|Imperial War Museum London|
The official war artists were a group of artists employed to produce specific works at the behest of the government which could be used as information, propaganda or simply to record, for prosperity, what was happening on the Western Front.
Muirhead Bone was appointed the first official war artist in May 1916. Bone was born in Glasgow in 1876 and was an etcher, dry point and water colour artist who was known for his architectural and industrial art. Bone was later replaced as official war artist by his brother-in-law, Francis Dodd.
Francis Dodd was born in Holyhead in 1874. He was a portrait painter, landscape artist and print maker. He produced over 30 portraits of senior official military figures.
In 1917, other artists were sent out to France, these included Eric Kennington, William Orpen, Paul Nash, Christopher Nevinson, William Rothstein.
An Infantryman Resting
None of the artists could fail to be moved emotionally by what they saw and witnessed
Paul Nash said......"I am no longer an artist interested and curious, I am a messenger who will bring back word from the men who are fighting to those who want the war to go on for ever. Feeble, inarticulate, will be my message, but it will have a bitter truth, and may it burn their lousy souls...."