Official War Artists
Three important English artists were exhibited during the war, all of whom ended up being official war artists: C.R.W. Nevinson, Paul Nash, and Eric Kennington. Oliver Brown stated that:
The three war exhibitions which I have recorded were as different from each other in outlook and performance as possible. Nevinson had as his subject matter the mechanisation of a modern army—the engines of war, the wire, and the shells; Paul Nash, the tragic devastation and disfigurement of a beautiful landscape; Kennington’s interest was the human element and the suffering of the individual fighting man.
In 1916, the gallery exhibited paintings and drawings of war by C.R.W. Nevinson (232). His submissions included La mitrailleuse, The Column on the March, and The Road to Ypres, as well as one sculpture, The Mechanic. Much of the work was bought for galleries and museums and by important collectors, and, according to Oliver Brown, Nevinson made his reputation with the show. He became an official war artist and there was a second exhibition of his work at the gallery in 1918, held under the auspices of the Ministry of Information (254). Nevinson had thirteen subsequent exhibitions at the gallery, of which the Library holds eight. The Library’s copy of the catalogue for the 1916 show is annotated in two hands and includes the insertion of item 31, Before the Storm, that was missing from the printed catalogue.
In May 1918, the gallery put on an exhibition of fifty-four of Paul Nash’s watercolours and line drawings of the war-torn landscape of the Western Front, titled Void of War (258). Later, in the same year, Eric Kennington exhibited drawings of British soldiers in the trenches (260). Unfortunately, neither of these slight publications are illustrated.