Local exhibitions week – Part 3

Yesterday I stayed in my new home town and went to York Art Gallery which has just been expensively refurbished yet again ; and , controversially , has introduced entrance fees after promising not to . My York museum pass allowed me in free – but the pass costs , of course .

The current big exhibition –

20595-YMT-IWM-Truth-and-Memory-Web-Panel-1280x373-960x280is displayed in 4 rooms and echoes the 1919 exhibition at the Royal Academy of 925 works (!) commemorating the Great War which had ended the previous year . The first room you come to is hung exactly as the main room at that 1919 exhibition and includes both straightforwardly patriotic & slightly unrealistic works like Clausen’s Woolwich Arsenal as well as a Stanley Spencer painting of a dressing station . Apparently an effort was made to include younger & more modern artists stylistically , partly because many had seen action and thus represented a generation who had suffered severely . That this was recognised surprised me a little since the line from our present government is that no one thought WW1 was terrible until certain recent historians and TV programmes had overexposed a few poems by officers who had no idea how patriotic the ‘ordinary’ soldiers really were . Thus the anniversary of the Great War is to be expressly celebrated . This exhibition because it reflects the complexities of artists’ responses then , just does not do that .

I didn’t think I would like it as much as I do but the quality of the work – often early stuff by later very famous painters eg the Nash brothers , Wyndham Lewis , Stanley Spencer – and the intensity of feeling conveyed won me over . Here are some favourites –

Over the Top - John Nash

Over the Top – John Nash

We are making a New World Paul Nash 1918

We are making a New World Paul Nash 1918

Paul was the older brother and had trained at the Slade , John had no (official) training . Both were in the Artists’ Rifles and saw action .

There were also women artists commissioned to work on the ‘Home Front’ –

The L press : Whitworth Works Openshaw Anna Airy

The L press : Whitworth Works Openshaw Anna Airy

This was a munitions works , she travelled around the country to produce 4 paintings of ‘war work’ but they were rejected at first . Too realistic or too modernistic or both ?

Women's canteen , Phoenix Works , Bradford 1918 Flora Lion

Women’s canteen , Phoenix Works , Bradford 1918 Flora Lion

Returning to the battle front :-

'Archies' CRW Nevinson

‘Archies’ CRW Nevinson

Nevinson was much taken with Futurism before the War and produced some joyful paintings of flight – despite the context . He claimed to be the first artist to paint from an aeroplane . Later however –

Paths of Glory 1917 CRW Nevinson

Paths of Glory 1917 CRW Nevinson

This was censored by the War Office because depictions of British corpses were bad for morale at home or words to that effect . It was shown , officially , after the War was over however . I would have thought that by 1917 the British public would have noticed that men were dying at the Front .

I’m sure I’ve left lots of other things out and will certainly go and visit again . Although I thought I knew quite a bit about this War from the literature produced during and after – there is nothing like a visual image to bring it home to you .


About rukshanaafia

Ceramic & textile artist
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One Response to Local exhibitions week – Part 3

  1. Kathy Bergen says:

    This is quite a nice exhibition. The art work is excellent and the subject matter is worthy of expression! I am surprised that the British War Office would not allow depictions of dying or dead solders to be viewed by the public…now days, things are so much different! Now the blood and gore are plastered all over the media…and the arts. And people seem to drink it up and thirst for more. In the U.S., we have many artistic renderings of all the wars fought here…especially the Civil War…which was a horrific war fought on our own soil. I like to see and read the thoughts and feelings of the people’s of other countries. Thanks for posting this.

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