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Dr Robert Bohan @RobertBohan
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Thread: As we commemorate #ArmisticeDay100 let’s look at two Irish war artists - Sir John Lavery & Sir William Orpen. Orpen travelled to the Front & observed the slaughter at close hand whereas Lavery depicted the Home Front #Armistice100
Both artists moved in high society in London. Lavery painted the royal family in 1913, indicating his success. He also painted singular portraits of the King & Queen. Orpen moved amongst the rich & titled too (Oscar Beit, 1913)
Orpen joined up in 1915 & painted Churchill in 1916. He became an official war artist in 1917. Self-Portrait (1917) & NCO Pilot (1915). Constant themes of his were wry self portraits displaying his general amusement at life.
Initially his images are upbeat but once he reached the front & began to see the dead & wounded that changed. Ready to Start, Self Portrait (1917), Man with Cigarette (1917) & Self Portrait (1917)
Strikingly he turns craters & battlefields into chromatic beauty. Tanks (1917), a Grave in a Trench (1917), Lieutenant Davids (1917) & German Wire, Thiepval (1917)
Orpen was deeply impacted by the war - however it’s almost as if to note the horror would be in poor taste for him. Orpen meets Jean Émile Laboureur, The Schwaben Redoubt (1917) & Dead Germans in a Trench (1918)
Orpen’s sympathies were with the enlisted men & the airmen in particular. He paints them with dash & assured masculinity. German Planes visiting Cassel (1917), Lieutenant Hoidge (1917) & Return of a Patrol (1917)
Orpen saw part of the front the year after the fighting had stopped & was struck by its strange beauty. The Butte de Warlencourt (1917), the Mascot of the Coldstream Guards (1917), April 1917 & the Main St., Combles (1917)
His pencil drawings betray a sympathy with the Tommies who inevitably ended up as cannon fodder. The Somme, A Clear Day (1917), The Big Crater (1917), Frozen Feet - Fleurs (1917)
His colours are daring & exciting. The Girls College (1917), Crater (1917). Its surprising to see Orpen’s awareness of post-Impression played out on the desecrated landscape
His most emotional painting was the scarred landscape of Zonnebeke. Zonnebeke (1918), the Mad Woman of Douai (1918), Adam & Eve At Péronne (1918) & Poilu & Tommy (c1917-8)
His allegorical painting of women tending the graves of the fallen is Orpen’s somewhat dry call for an awareness of the futility of war. Harvest (1918), Soldiers Resting at the Front (1918) & Members of the Allied Press (1918)
He carried out a large number of portraits of service men & women. Major McCudden (1918), the First Chief Controller (1918), Marshall Foch (1918) & Ganga Singh (1919)
He was present at Versailles & viewed the conference with deep skepticism as Europe was carved up & vengeance exacted. Peace Conference (1919) & To The Unknown British Soldier in France (1921-3, 2nd & 1st versions)
Sir John Lavery never left Britain during the war. His images included The First Wounded (1914) where he shows injured soldiers from the Front being looked after at the London Hospital. Here is pain aseptically dealt with.
Lavery loved painting Sea scapes & the might of the Royal Navy - especially in Scotland. War Room (c1914-5), IWM Murky (c1914-5), Churchill (1916) & Rosyth (1918)
Women working in a Factory (1918), Monitors, Dover Harbour (1917-9), Long Hope Orkney (1917) & A Convoy, North Sea (nd). His Convoy image with its dirigibles captures the weaponry of the time.
Britain pushed inordinate numbers & money into the war effort with equal efforts by the population to support the men at the Front. The Forth Bridge (1917), RNAS Roehampton (1917), Munitions, Newcastle (1917) & 1st Earl Beatty (1917)
American Troops Embarking (c1918), Shipbuilding on the Clyde (1915-9) & Scapa Flow (1914-9). The arrival of the American troops would help turn the war in the Allies favour.
The Wounded at Dover (1918), German Wounded Le Harve (1916-8), Nurse Billam & Sister Carrier (1916-8) & a Military Camp (1917-9)
Lavery painted one of the many graveyards. To understand the scale of the loss, some 200,000 Irish fought & almost 50,000 of them died. Etaples (1919), The Ordnance CO Cookhouse (1919), The Bakeries (1916-9)
Both Lavery & Orpen captured different elements of the Great War & have left us unique Irish visions of the conflict. QMAAC Camp (1918), The Entrance, Dover Harbour (1918), the Arrival of the German Delegates (1918) & the Guns, HMS Terror (1918)
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