During this peculiar August weather, I have been reading David Boyd Hancock’s remarkable account of young British Artists and the Great War. Firstly, the account has introduced me to the Slade Artists whose work I was fortunate to see a few year’s ago in the Dulwich Art Gallery. So I have become acquainted with the critical instructor Henry Tonks whose sarcasm of student’s drawing was interlaced with great conviction about fostering the development of fine talents. I have learned much about the deep courage of Stanley Spencer, the lyrical regard of Paul Nash and his brother for the countryside, and of how Nevinson subverted Futurism to convey the mechanical dreadfulness of modern warfare.
Secondly, Boyd Haycock is excellent on the personal relationships affecting the development and interaction between the painters. The upbringing of Mark Gertler and his passion for the wayward and difficult Dora Carrington, I found fascinating as the figures of Bloomsbury enter the scene: Strachey, Fry and of course, Ottoline Morrell. Rupert Brooke and D.H.Lawrence are included too and the various links with art dealers, sponsors and critics completely convey the vivid and sometimes lurid time.
Thirdly, the response of these sensitive souls to the destruction so suddenly released in 1914 is powerfully conveyed. Minds as well as bodies are for ever traumatised and the pictures generated under fire have enormous power. Reading about the stalemate which ensued and the trench warfare, the horrors suffered under artillery bombardment and perhaps especially, the unnatural distortion of countryside inevitably bring contemporary issues to mind.
One interesting exhibition which has displayed the artwork in relation to the Ukrainian conflict has taken place in Brussels and is the subject of an engaging article from The Guardian- Making sense of the senseless: Ukrainian war-art exhibition arrives in Brussels and may be viewed at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jul/31/ukrainian-war-art-exhibition-arrives-brussels-captured-house
Another which well repays viewing and includes outstanding sketches by George Butler may be seen on this BBC website and shows extensive video clips with further artists at
Finally, there is this academic discussion relating Ukranian artist’s work with issues of Russian colonialism from Columbia University. It also includes Music and Film.