Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saturday Salon: Art of Remembrance

For Memorial Day Weekend, I'm featuring several artists who painted the horrors of WWI.  A war in which much of the death and destruction appears to have been caused by the callous blundering of generals - old men still living in the past, World War One strikes a particular note with me because so many millions of valiant young men were apparently slaughtered for very little reason.

And in its end, this first 'war to end all wars' laid the seeds for WWII just a little over twenty years later.

'We Are Making a New World' by John Nash - Source

'Over the Top' by John Nash - Source

'The Ypres Salient at Night' by Paul Nash - Source

'Menin Road' by John Nash - Source

'French Troops Resting" by Christopher Nevinson - Source

 'La Mitrailleuse' by Christopher Nevinson - Source

'Gassed and Wounded' by Eric Kennington - Source

'La Guerre' by Marcel Gromaire - Source

Unknown German artist. Can't find original source.

Check the above link to read about the courageous rescue of the famed 'Lost Battlion' and the posthumous Medals of Honor which were awarded. Only four Army Air Service pilots received Medals of Honor for service in WWI. Two of them went to servicemen concerned in this gallant episode.

Also wanted to mention the 1980's PBS series, TESTAMENT OF YOUTH based on the 1933 autobiography of Vera Brittain (1893 - 1970), author, journalist, pacifist and feminist, a young woman who volunteered as a nurse during WWI and who lost her brother, her fiance, and two best friends on the killing grounds of France and Italy.

Vera Brittain

The five episode series chronicles Brittain's life and work as a nurse and stars Cheryl Campbell a wonderful and very underrated British actress.

If you can find a DVD, by all means don't miss this stirring adaptation. I've never been able to bring myself to read the book because I suppose I am, basically, an emotional coward. But watching the series back then brought to light the life of this remarkable woman - someone I'd never heard of before. But someone I've never forgotten.

To read more about Vera Brittain, please go to this link.


  1. Yvette, having had many family members who served in World War One and Two, I was truly moved by the heartbreaking portraits you displayed. On this Memorial Day Weekend (and all the time, really), we should never forget the sacrifices and the tragic toll of the brave people who lost their lives fighting our enemies, and we should always be grateful for those who do their best to protect us.

  2. Oh Yvette read the book it's wonderful. And I agree wholly on Campbell and the PBS series. A fond reader.

  3. Dorian: It is so very important that we not forget. I am disheartened though by how very little kids are taught these days about these important events and the sacrifices made by so many on our behalf.

    Aren't these paintings incredible?

  4. Anonymous: Maybe I will. You know, Brittain's ashes were scattered (by her own wish) over her brother's burial ground in Italy. She had said that her heart had spent 50 years there. So damned sad. I don't know how she managed to go on.

    Maybe I will read the book and if it gets to be too much for me, I'll just put it down.

  5. I couldn't read the book either, and I wouldn't say it's emotional cowardice. I'd say it's sensitivity to the brutal and tragic loss of human life, in a war that may not have been necessary.

    I just looked up the incredible loss of life. It's nearly 10 million.

    This came home to me a few years ago when I was looking up the brilliant watercolorists August Macke and Franz Marc. They died on the front, one at age 27, one at 36. What beautiful artists we lost and what beautiful people lost their lives.

    And I'm sure millions of talented and earnest young people were lost who could have contributed to society and lived their lives well.

    It makes me angry today that young people are learning to wipe out countless people, with no thought, at play with video games.

    And yet, it makes me angrier at the senseless loss of life today, in many needless wars. Death, severe injuries, including loss of limbs, high numbers with PTSD and other emotional illness. Then they come here and many are jobless. Some are homeless. Some don't get adequate medical/mental health care.

    This is what I think about today:: the senselessness of much war and the tragic human toll.

  6. I do too, Kathy. Thanks for commenting. WWI sent a whole generation of young men to their deaths. Among them, many artists, poets and writers. The poet Rupert Brooke and his brother both died in the conflict. The poet Wilfred Owen was killed in action one week before the end of the war. On and on...

    There never has and I think there never will be enough care and concern for those that come back wounded physically and/or mentally and needing help.

    That's the way of things.

  7. Hi Yvette. I enjoyed reading this piece. Really interesting. The older we get the more we realise how senseless war really is. loved the paintings in particular 'Gassed and Wounded' by Eric Kennington and 'We Are Making a New World' by John Nash.they say it all. Will be watching TESTAMENT OF YOUTH. This is something I will watch with my young son.

  8. To correct my estimate at the number of dead in WWI: 15 million, with another 20 million injured.

  9. Wild About Alice: Thanks. I'm glad you'll be watching TESTAMENT OF YOUTH, even better - with your son. It was a wonderfully moving series which really brings home the human cost of war. Cheryll Campbell is excellent.

    You know, they always say 'war is for the young' - tragically.

  10. Kathy: mind-boggling numbers. Almost too much to comprehend.

  11. Hi, Yvette -

    It's so interesting to see John Singer Sargent painting subject matter beyond high society. Incidentally, I was introduced to Sir William Orpen through his WWI portraits of soldiers.

    Wishing you a good holiday,


  12. Hi Mark, I featured William Orpen in a Saturday Salon post a few weeks ago that's why I didn't include him in today's. I love Orpen's work.

  13. The latest item of note to New Yorkers and veterans is that a man, who was an immigrant, enlisted and was in the U.S. military in war zones for years.

    A close friend was killed by a car bomb a few years ago. This soldier got PTSD.

    He lives with his family in a Brooklyn co-op. He has bad PTSD symptoms. His doctor suggested he get a dog.

    He got a Shih Tsu. The dog is helping him with his PTSD symptoms. His spouse and children have noticed this.

    The co-op board told him to leave: It's either his apartment or his dog! (Residents are allowed to have dogs to help with disabilities.)

    This is the kind of stuff that raises my ire. A veterans who volunteered, was in war zones, got PTSD, as do many, got a dog to help him. And now a co-op board is forcing him to make this awful choice.

    I hope other residents support him. He has a good tenants' lawyer.

    Sometimes, the mind boggles are the insensitivity to one's fellow human. And he's a veteran who volunteered and risked his life.

    And the dog is adorable. How can anyone be so callous as to do this? Some people have no heart.

  14. Kathy I agree with everything you say in your post. Some human beings can be incredibly valiant and courageous and some can be plain vile.

    I hope the man you're talking about gets the help and backing of his fellow tenants as well as the tenant lawyer.


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