The world is marking the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of The Great War this week. Alongside the bloodshed recorded through photography, many artists were commissioned to paint scenes of warfare, creating raw and vivid depictions of the conflict.
The Imperial War Museum have shared some striking artworks with BuzzFeed UK. These preparatory sketches would have been one of many studies leading to the finished painting - slide across to compare the two images. The Museum is currently displaying work at the Truth and Memory: British Art of the First World War exhibition.
The lower half of the composition has a view inside a trench with duckboard paths leading to a dug-out. Two infantrymen stand to the left of the dug-out entrance, one of them on the firestep looking over the parapet into No Man’s Land. This is one of a series of paintings commissioned by the British War Memorial Committee set up by the Ministry of Information early in 1918. It was intended that both the art and the setting would celebrate national ideals of heroism and sacrifice.
An aerial view of the Asagio Plateau with the Italian Alps in the upper background. Three aircraft, seen from above, circle in the upper left of the composition.
The view over a desolate landscape with shattered trees, the earth a mass of shell holes. The sun hangs high in the sky, beams of light shining down through heavy, earth-coloured clouds. This work … is one of the most memorable images of the First World War. The title mocks any ambitions of war, as the sun rises on a scene of total destruction. The landscape has become un-navigable, unrecognisable and utterly barren; the mounds of earth are gravestones to a recently departed world.
A view along a long, deep trench in northern France, which appears to be no longer in use. A wide firestep and the parapet of the trench run along the right, with a few sheets of corrugated iron and a few trunks of wood on the firestep.
A scene with four British artillerymen firing a Howitzer gun. They stand beneath a canopy of camoflage netting. To the right a blast of light erupts from the muzzle of the gun, and the men on the left shield their faces from the brightness.
An unnaturally bright sun blazes over a landscape with a river.
A crowded scene with British soldiers and German prisoners amongst a construction site. Three British soldiers, one German prisoner and a small dog stand in the centre of the composition next to a motorcycle with debris in the foreground.
British troops march across the foreground. They walk in rows of three, every man wearing full kit. Behind them are two mounted French officers, in their distinctive helmets and dark blue cloaks. They march along a road lined with bare, branchless trees. There is the edge of a ruined building in the left background.
A group of soldiers clamber from the trench, going ‘over the top’. Two lie dead in the trench and another has fallen lying face down in the snow. Those who have survived plod forward towards the right without looking back. The painting commemorates the 1st Artists’ Rifles involvement in an attack on the morning of 30th December, 1917, at Welsh Ridge, near Marcoing (south west of Cambrai). The unit was recalled from ‘rest’ in response to a German attack and hastily committed to action. The consequences were disastrous and the Artists’ Rifles suffered heavy casualties. This battle experience profoundly affected the artist and his painting.
A high altitude aerial view of the Sea of Galilee. It is flanked by hills on the right-hand shore, the Jordan river lower left and a snow-capped Mount Hermon rising above the clouds in the upper right of the composition. Three aircraft fly towards the lake, where several dark shapes of Turkish motorboats setting off from the shore are visible.
A scene of men stacking artillery shells in a shell dump. The space is filled with men who stand in the form of a human chain passing the shells along the line to be stacked in a pile at the end.