Art of the First World War - A Day of Talks
'I am no longer an artist. 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'. Paul Nash
The First World War was the first conflict to spawn a wealth of artistic output from those who fought on its battlefields.
To commemorate the Centenary of the end of the First World War, Southwark Cathedral is delighted to be joined by four experts on art and artists of the Great War. Over the course of the day you will discover a small selection of the Imperial War Museum's exceptional art collection from this period, to the life and works of some of the most famous and not so famous artists who shaped the public view of the war.
These illustrated talks will take place in the elegant Cathedral Library.
10.30am - Rebecca Newell
Highlights from the IWM First World War Art collection
The IWM’s art collection is one of the largest and most important representations of twentieth century British art in the world. It includes many great works of art from the British government war art schemes of the two World Wars. In its reflection of artists as eyewitnesses, participants, commentators and officially commissioned recorders of war, the First World War official War Art collection reveal to us all aspects of that conflict as seen and experienced by ordinary people, both civilians and service men and women. Framed in a time of unprecedented government patronage of the arts, during which the establishment and the public embraced the avant-garde, it reveals too how artists broke with tradition, creating a new visual language to communicate the truth, depth and horror of what they saw.
Rebecca Newell joined the IWM as Head of Art in early September 2017. She is working on all aspects related to the care, display and interpretation of the IWM preeminent art collection – the critical framework for which is the museum’s foundation in 1917 to the present day - identifying new opportunities for collecting and working with artists and partners. Current research projects include work on LGBTQ experiences in conflict situations, ‘military masculinities’ and aspects relating to the war artists schemes of the World Wars. She has a background in art history (BA and MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art) and museology, and prior to joining IWM, worked as a curator for six years at the newly reopened National Army Museum during a critical time of redevelopment. Alongside wide-ranging collections development and research into contemporary art and conflict, female service experiences and LGBTQ and the army, she was part of the small team responsible for curating the new permanent galleries, working on all aspects and with stakeholders, audiences and partners to the point of delivery in April 2017. She also initiated collections outreach, co-curatorial and artist engagement activities, and started a rolling art commissioning project during her time at the museum.
11.45am - David Boyd Haycock
Paul Nash and CRW Nevinson
Paul Nash and C.R.W. Nevinson were two of the most significant artists to paint the soldiers and battlefields of World War One. Walter Sickert described Nevinson’s painting La Mitrailleuse (‘The Machine-Gun’, 1916, Tate Britain) as probably ‘the most authoritative and concentrated utterance on war in the history of painting’. Another contemporary wrote that Nash’s shattered landscapes seemed to have been ‘torn from the sulphurous rim of the inferno itself.’ This lecture explores the artistic development of both men and their distinct but related responses to representing an extraordinary, horrific and very modern war in paint.
Dr David Boyd Haycock has worked as an academic at the Universities of Oxford and London, and as a curator at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. He is now a freelance writer, lecturer and curator specializing in British cultural history of the early twentieth century.
He is the author of a number of books, including Paul Nash (Tate Publishing, 2002); A Crisis of Brilliance: Five Young British Artists and the Great War (Old Street Publishing, 2009), which was short-listed by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain as best work of non-fiction, 2009; and I Am Spain: The Spanish Civil War and the Men and Women who went to Fight Fascism (Old Steet Publishing, 2012). He curated the exhibition ‘Nash, Nevinson, Spencer, Gertler, Carrington, Bomberg: A Crisis of Brilliance, 1908 to 1922’ at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in the summer of 2013.
1.00pm - 2.00pm Lunch
2.00pm - Dr Jonathan Black
'Speed, grace and dodging the grim reaper': The Experiences of Lieutenant Sydney Carline (1888-1929) Fighter Pilot and War Artist in France, Italy and the Middle East, 1916-19.
'Sydney Carline (1888-1929) studied at the Slade School of Art, University College London between 1907 and 1911, winning several prizes. By the outbreak of the First World War he was emerging as a highly talented painter, etcher and medal-designer. Late in 1915 he volunteered to serve in the Royal Flying Corps. He was awarded his wings in July 1916 and a month later was flying missions over France. He was shot down and nearly killed after a flying a raid over the Somme battlefield. After a lengthy recuperation he returned to duty in 1918 as a fighter pilot flying the celebrated Sopwith Camel in the skies over north-eastern Italy. He shot down three enemy Austro-Hungarian aircraft before he was appointed in July 1918 an official war artist attached to the RAF section of the Ministry of information. My talk will explore the striking and evocative work Sydney produced first in Italy and then in the Middle East when he was sent there with his younger brother Richard early in 1919 to record the significant contribution the recently created RAF had made to the destruction of Ottoman Turkish military power in the region in 1918. Over several months (January-August 1919) Sydney and Richard made the journey of a lifetime, sketching and painting for the RAF in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, the Lebanon, Iraq and northern Persia - ending up by the shores of the Caspian Sea.'
Dr. Jonathan Black was awarded his PhD in History in Art by University College, London in 2003 for a thesis exploring the Image of the Ordinary British Soldier or 'Tommy' in the war art and memorial sculpture of: C.R.W. Nevinson (18891-1946), Eric Henri Kennington (1888-1960) and Charles Sargeant Jagger (1885-1934) c. 1915-1925. His publications include monographs on Kennington as a sculptor (2002) and as a war artist in WWII (2011), a study of Nevinson as a printmaker (2014) and of the image of Winston Churchill in British Art c. 1900-2015 (2017). He has curated 10 exhibitions including one focussing on the prints of CRW Nevinson (2014); 'War in the Sunshine: The British In Italy, 1918' at the Estorick Collection, London (2017) and on the society portraitist Sir Oswald Birley (1880-1952) at the Philip Mould Gallery, London (2017). He is currently a Senior Research Fellow in History of Art at Kingston School of Art, Kingston University.
3.15pm - Richard Slocombe
“An Unseemly Joke”: Wyndham Lewis and the First World War
As an avant-garde painter and radically experimental novelist, Wyndham Lewis was a potent force in early 20th century British modernism. He also remains one of its most contentious figures; his outspoken views on art, culture and politics sharply dividing opinion to this day.
This lecture focuses on Lewis’ experience of the First World War, covering his transition from pre-war radical to serving artillery officer to state-commissioned war artist, and finally concludes with his disillusionment post-war. It will also consider Lewis’ characteristically complex attitude to war. “I neither hate it nor love it” he admitted in his 1937 autobiography Blasting and Bombardiering. Accordingly, Lewis’ artistic response to the First World War avoided obvious outrage at its destruction or the promise of redemption for its protagonists. Instead, the talk will show that Lewis’ art was informed by the belief that war merely exposed the inherent absurdity of humanity.
Richard Slocombe is a freelance curator and writer, based in Norfolk. Prior to this he was for 14 years Curator and then Senior Curator of Art at Imperial War Museums in London. While there he was responsible for several critically-acclaimed art exhibitions, including Truth and Memory, a survey of British First World War art, which marked conflict’s centenary in July 2014. Other shows Richard has curated included the first retrospective of the political photomontage artist Peter Kennard, in 2015, and, most recently, Wyndham Lewis: Life, Art, War. The exhibition, staged last year at IWM North, was the first full retrospective of the artist in a UK national museum for over 60 years.
Richard’s main research interests are British art during the World Wars and the Cold War era, the evolution ‘dazzle’ and marine camouflage and war and propaganda posters. He has written and lectured widely on these subjects besides making numerous related television and radio appearances for UK and overseas broadcasters.
Richard continues to lecture and write, as well as advise galleries and art dealerships.
Richard has researched and lectured widely on his specialist subjects. He has written articles for national newspapers and written and contributed to several publications. These include British Posters of the Second World War (IWM, 2010), Peter Kennard: Unofficial War Artist (IWM, 2015) and The Somme: A Visual History(IWM, 2016). Wyndham Lewis: Life, Art, War (IWM, 2017) was made with the acclaimed Lewis scholar, Paul Edwards.
Main Image: Over the Top by John Nash
©Imperial War Museum (Art.IWM ART1656)
IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON
First World War Galleries
Open 10am - 6pm every day | iwm.org.uk | Free entry
Discover the story of the First World War through the eyes of the British people and the Empire, both on the home front and the fighting fronts. On display are over 1,300 objects from IWM’s collections including weapons, uniforms, diaries, keepsakes, film and art. Each object on display gives a voice to the people who created them, used them or cared for them, and reveals stories not only of destruction, suffering and loss, but also endurance and innovation, duty and devotion, comradeship and love.
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