Art Friday: War

Australian war artist Ivor Hele

Art Friday: War

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

British war artist - Christopher Nevinson
Many brave men and women have ptured war through art (and photography) - they were the official war artists. They risked their lives and many died doing their job. Each nation enlisted artists to go to the front line and capture the daily events on the canvas or via photography. Countries such as Australia, the USA and UK still send war artists into battle.  Our Australia artists have gone to many wars, including those most recent in Iraq and Afghanistan and those in East Timor, Vietnam, Korea and the two World Wars. However, these days we rely more on the photo-journalist than a painter to record the horrors of war.

Today's Art Friday is to remember those brave war artists that went to war doing a job they love - art.

One Australian war artist - Alan Moore, was sent to Bergen-Belsen in 1945 to paint what he saw. He started sketching the moment he arrived at the camp - to witness a scene almost impossible to comprehend. He understood that his role was to document and interpret what he was saw as a record to future generations. His paintings hang in the Australian War Memorial. 

Wounded by Paul Nash
In World War I somewhere between 9 to over 15 million people died but that was nothing compared to World War II where it is estimated that between 50-80 million people died and of these somewhere around 38-55 million were civilians.

There are no winners in war.

War is about killing and maiming. 

It should never be romanticised. 

War brings only sadness and tragedy.

Lets not glorify war, there is nothing beautiful about it at all - but quietly remember all those families that have been shattered as a result of war and all those mothers and fathers who waited and waited to hear news. Too many tears have been shed because of war. 

"La Mitrailleuse", 1915 by Christopher Nevinson
painting by Stanley Llewelyn Wood, 1916
There are many faces of war, not only the horrors of the battle fields, but the men and women who worked to save lives such as the Red Cross nurses or the ambulance drivers or the many millions of women who worked in the factories making the ammunition. Each one played a vital role in the machinery of war. 

The patience of a red cross nurse by Gabriel Emile Nicolet (World War 1)
painting by Dame Laura Knight (WW2)
Land girls at work by Evelyn Dunbar - employed by the War Artists Advisory Committee to record the contribution of women during the Second World War. 
Doris Zinkeisen, "On the Ward", painted when she was a war artist during WW2
Ruby Loftus at her lathe in the Royal Ordnance Factory in South Wales,
painting by Dame Laura Knight (WW2)

Not only were artists busy at the front, they were the force behind the propaganda posters and there are many of these including this lovely about knowledge and public libraries!

Perhaps it was black and white photos and film footage from the front that really brought home the devastation and human cost of war. However it wasn't until Vietnam did we start to see war in colour and for the first we saw the red blood that had been hidden in the black and white imagines. 

WW1 photography

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields. 

John McCrae

Today is ANZAC Day in Australia - the 25th of April - The Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 (99 years ago), meeting fierce resistance from the Turkish defenders. Australian lost 8,141 deaths men and over 60,000 were injured. It is a day to remember the soldiers who died in past and present wars. 



  1. So sad, Jo. Such a waste. I find it very strange that people got all excited about war at different times (until the reality set in), and that people today CHOOSE to join the army. That boggles my mind.

    1. All those young men raced to join the war in 1914 to only die - I also have difficulty understand, but then again we see it from the other side and know that millions died for nothing, they of course, had no idea of the horror of war. They just saw it as an adventure a way to travel and see the world. However the men of 1939 knew the truth, but I suppose they also realised that a mad man in German was worth fighting against. I can’t imagine how broken hearted the wives and mothers must have felt as the war progressed.

      However those men who didn’t fight (in WW1) were treated very poorly in Australia and often targeted for not fighting. White feathers were delivered in the mail to the pacifists for what was considered their coward behaviour.

      However there is the other side to war -the civilians as in WW2, what horrors they faces (on both sides) just trying to survive. I can not imagine what life was like for those in Berlin or London with the bombings that were relentless.

      I think those last two photos sum it all up and the hopelessness that millions must have felt.


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