February 25, 2013
The Destruction of an Austrian Machine 1918– Oil by Sydney Carline
Sydney Carline (1888-1929) and Richard Carline (1896-1980) were British artist-brothers who served as official war artists in the middle-east during the Great War. Born in London, both Sydney and Richard studied art in their youth and were exhibiting paintings in the pre-war period, having grown up in an artistic family (their sister Hilda was also a painter and was married to well-known English painter Stanley Spencer).
The air-force section of the British Official War Art committee during WW1 (formed after the RFC and RNAS merged to become the new Royal Air Force in April 1918) was led by Lt-Colonel A C MacLean, a serving officer in the RAF with no artistic background or experience. Hence he chose artists based on their ability to depict aviation with technical accuracy and on the condition they were also serving officers in the service. Sydney Carline, who was 26 when the war began, served in the army as a despatch rider before he transferred to the RFC in 1916. Trained as a pilot, he flew fighters over the Western Front until early 1918, including Sopwith Camels. He survived being shot down over the Somme and during his spare time, made numerous paintings and sketches. His younger brother Richard, who had enlisted at age 19, served in the infantry before transferring to the RFC in 1916, working in wireless communications, aerial cartography and eventually in a frontline squadron, flying Bristol F2B two-seaters.
Richard Carline was one of the first painters appointed by the air-force sub-section of the war artist program and MacLean delegated him to appoint other artists. Among the painters he chose from serving RAF officers, he appointed his older brother Sydney, partly out of a desire to relieve him of combat duties. Both men were assigned to depicting the activities of the RAF in the Middle-East theatre. MacLean disapproved of most of Richard’s choices but he agreed to the appointment of Sydney (and Norman G Arnold, another of Richard’s suggested painters).
Both painters worked in a style influenced by post-impressionism, especially the works of French painter Paul Cezanne- stylised, rich in colour with simplified tones and geometric compositions. Sydney was stationed in Italy as an official war artist in August 1918 and he intrepidly did pencil and water-colour sketches from the cockpit of a Sopwith Camel. On one of these sketching trips over the Italian Alps, he commented in a letter ‘It was so cold up high that my paint froze almost before I could put it on the paper, with the result that the sketches are very blotchy where lumps of iced paint have thawed’.
Sydney had earlier flown combat missions on the Italian Front and he had participated in the shooting down of an Austrian two-seater, an incident which inspired the above painting. ‘On patrol with two others we saw a Hun two-seater taking photos 5000 feet below us (we at 10,000 feet) and on our side of our line, we dived on him. He put up a show, the pilot was shot, and the observer leaning over tried to dive for home but he was shot and the machine crashed into the river.’
In January 1919, both brothers were sent to Palestine where they spent time with the RAF and also with No 1 Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps. Sydney remarked of the latter, describing the Australian aircrew as ‘making a fetish of their roughness’. Both artists had an even lower regard for the Arabs, describing them as a ‘horrible, deceitful, money-grubbing, filthy lot of people’.
The brothers travelled extensively throughout the Middle-East before returning to the UK in November 1919 with numerous sketches and studies to complete the 25 large canvases they thought they had been commissioned to produce. However budget shortages reduced the number to only seven- three from Richard and four from Sydney. The large oils they did submit were accepted coolly by the committee who criticised the modernist styles and the tendency for both artists to focus on the majestic sweep of the landscapes rather than on the aircraft.
Sydney Carline died in 1929, having contracted pneumonia whilst visiting friend and fellow painter John Nash on a cold evening.
Richard Carline worked as a painter and an art teacher in the 1930s and he worked as a designer for aircraft camouflage during WW2. He traveled extensively during his life and worked for several international art organisations, including as an art counselor for UNESCO. He died in 1980.
British Scouts Leaving their Aerodrome on Patrol over the Asiago Plateau, Italy– Oil by Sydney Carline
Flying Above Kirkuk– Oil by Sydney Carline
The Destruction of the Turkish Transport– Oil by Sydney Carline
The Sea of Galilee- Attacking Turkish Transports– Oil by Sydney Carline
A Destroyed Turkish Aerodrome– Oil by Sydney Carline
Three Sopwith Camels in Flight 1918– Pencil drawing by Sydney Carline
Mount Hermon and Mount Sannin above the Clouds– Oil by Richard Carline
An Impression of Lens, France. View from an Aeroplane– Oil by Richard Carline
February 25, 2013
Erecting Aeroplanes– Pencil & Charcoal Drawing by Muirhead Bone (1917)
Muirhead Bone (1876-1953) was a Scottish artist who was the first of the official British war artists during the Great War. Born and raised in Glasgow, Bone hailed from a family of journalists (both his father and one of his brothers belonged to the profession), a factor which influenced the descriptive style of his drawings. After studying architecture, Bone studied fine art in Glasgow, including printmaking and etching. He produced drawings and prints, focusing on landscapes and architectural studies and his work was known for its graphic rendering and large amounts of detail.
In 1916, the British propaganda bureau appointed Bone to be the first official war artist. He produced works in charcoal and his first two drawings were a panoramic view of the Battle of the Somme and Tanks which depicted one of the new Mk-1 ‘Male’ British tanks which made their combat debut in September 1916. The latter drawing was immensely popular and much reproduced in the British Press at the time. Bone, who was given an honourary rank of 2nd-Lieutenant with a salary of 500-pounds, a large sum for that period, was exempt from military service and was able to devote himself full-time to his war art. He produced over 150 drawings before returning to Britain in late 1916 where he produced scenes portraying the workings at shipyards, munitions and aviation factories. Returning to France in 1917, he created yet more drawings of the war, this time focusing on ruined buildings and villages, always rendered in a highly detailed, exhaustive style. Even vast complex subjects such as piles of spent artillery shells or panoramic views of a factory floor did not deter him in the slightest although he was physically and mentally exhausted by the end of the Great War.
Bone travelled extensively in the inter-war years, drawing scenes in numerous countries. Two volumes of his WW1 drawings were published in the 1920s. During the Second World War, Bone was appointed again to be an official war artist, this time depicting the bombing of London during the Blitz along with portraits of Royal Navy officers. Devastated by the death of his son Gavin in 1943, Bone ceased producing any more war art but he remained a member of the committee, responsible for appointing other artists. He passed away in 1953.
Aeroplane on the Blocks– Charcoal & Pencil Drawing by Muirhead Bone (1917)
February 25, 2013
Panorama of the Western Front 1917– Oil by William Lionel Wyllie
William Lionel Wyllie (1851-1931) was a British painter who was commissioned to produce large-scale oil paintings of the Great War in the immediate post-war period. Primarily a maritime painter, Wyllie had achieved considerable success during the late 19th century. The son of an artist and half-brother to another, Wyllie trained at the Royal Academy of Art. He worked for a short period in commercial shipping and also was an avid sailor, his experiences supplying much inspiration and reference material for his maritime paintings and etchings which achieved commercial success in the late Victorian era.
Wyllie was commissioned during the latter phase of the Great War to produce large-scale panoramic oil paintings of both the Western Front and several of the most important naval battles such as Jutland in 1916. Two of Wyllie’s sons, Eric and Robert, were killed during the war.
He continued to paint after the war, his close associations with the Royal Navy bringing in numerous commissions including a 42-foot panorama of the Battle of Trafalgar which was unveiled in 1930, the year before his death.
Night Bombers– Oil by William Lionel Wyllie
From Ypres to the Sea– Oil by William Lionel Wyllie
Panorama of the Western Front No 2 1917– Oil by William Lionel Wyllie
Aerial Battle– Oil by William Lionel Wyllie
Air Battle 1916– Oil by William Lionel Wyllie
February 25, 2013
The Destruction of LZ.37– Oil by Frederick Gordon Crosby
Frederick Gordon Crosby (1885-1943) was an English artist and illustrator who is best-known for his automotive works. Born in London, Crosby had no formal training as an artist and he began his working life as a draughtsman for Daimler Motors. However when he began working for the magazines Automobile Engineer and Autocar in 1908, his talent in depicting cars, in both a technical and illustrative sense, was soon noticed. Crosby teamed up with automotive writer Monty Tombs to produce the regular feature Keeping up Appearances in Autocar which featured Crosby’s illustrations and Tombs’ humorous columns, a very early forerunner to Top Gear. Crosby’s illustrations of motor-cars constituted the bulk of his artistic work, usually rendered in watercolours or acrylics.
During the Great War, Crosby served in the RFC, tasked with salvaging wreckage of crashed aircraft and making technical studies of German engine and aircraft parts.
Immediately after the war, he was commissioned to produce a painting to portray the destruction of German Zeppelin LZ-37 on 7th June 1915 by Flight-Lieutenant Reginald A Warneford piloting a French-built Morane-Saulnier Type L over Ghent in Belgium. This was the first time a Zeppelin had been shot down by a British aircraft and Warneford was awarded a Victoria Cross. Warneford never lived to see Crosby’s painting as the former was killed in an accidental air crash only ten days after he destroyed LZ-37.
For the rest of his career, Crosby continued to work as an illustrator and graphic designer for Autocar magazine. He was appointed as an official war artist during the Second World War. Crosby’s son Peter, a pilot in the RAF, was killed in 1943. Devastated by the loss of his son, Crosby himself died only a short time afterwards.
February 25, 2013
Aerial Reconnaissance– Oil by Harold Wyllie (1920)
Harold Wyllie (1880-1973) was a British maritime and landscape artist and the son of Irish-born painter William Lionel Wyllie. He worked in a traditional, conservative manner similar to the style of his father’s work. Wyllie enjoyed a moderately successful career but his work is less remembered than that of his father and is dismissed by some as overly derivative and old-fashioned, aping the romantic styles of 18th and 19th century maritime art. Two of his brothers, Eric and Robert, were killed during the First World War. Wyllie painted a small number of oils in 1920-21, depicting aerial combat of the Great War. His works focus more on the sweeping skies and cloudscapes rather than on the aircraft themselves and, like his maritime work, had a curiously old-fashioned style that derived from early 19th century romanticism.
Wyllie was appointed as an official war artist during the Second World War, depicting scenes of the Royal Air-Force and Navy and these displayed more imagination and were moderately more stylised in an modernist fashion.
An Air Fight, France 1918– Oil by Harold Wyllie (1920)
The Bombing of Bissheghem Aerodrome, the Night of 20 October 1917– Oil by Harold Wyllie (1920)
Artillery Observation: BE2c Machines over Hooge 1915– Oil by Harold Wyllie
British Bombers Getting Off from Trezennes Aerodrome 1917– Oil by Harold Wyllie
February 25, 2013
Enemy Aerodrome Active– Oil by Emile Antoine Verpilleux (1919)
Emile Antoine Verpilleux (1888-1964) was an Anglo-Belgian painter & printmaker who spent most of his life in Britain. Born to a Belgian father and Scottish mother, Verpilleux was schooled in France and art-trained in Belgium. He is chiefly remembered for his woodcut prints of architectural scenes and cityscapes influenced by the German Romantics, James McNeill Whistler and the Art Deco movement. During the Great War, he served in the Royal Flying Corps, working in communications. He was commissioned to produce a number of oils depicting scenes of the Great War shortly after the end of hostilities, partly inspired by his own observations during his time in France.
Evening, Aerodrome 1918– Oil by Emile Antoine Verpilleux (1919)
SOS– Oil by Emile Antoine Verpilleux (1919)
February 25, 2013
Hunting the Taube– Oil by Christopher Nevinson (1915)
Christopher R Nevinson (1889-1946) was a British painter who had a highly successful but, at times, controversial and difficult career as a modernist & realist artist in the early half of the 20th century. Born in Britain to parents who were both writers and political activists, Nevinson studied at the Slade School of Art where among his fellow pupils were other soon-to-be-famous British painters such as Paul Nash, Mark Gertler, Stanley Spencer and Dora Carrington. During the pre-WW1 years, Nevinson traveled and studied in France & Italy, coming under the influence of the Cubist and Futurist art movements.
When the Great War erupted in 1914, Nevinson volunteered for the Red Cross, working in the French port of Dunkirk in the autumn and early winter of 1914 as a medical orderly and cleaner at a makeshift dressing station for wounded British soldiers. For a brief period, he also served as an ambulance driver but, suffering severe rheumatism due to the cold winter, he lacked the strength to drive the vehicles for long periods and he was soon sent back to Britain. Nevinson later exaggerated the length of time he spent as an ambulance driver in his own post-war accounts of his experiences as he thought it would assist his artistic reputation.
Nevinson spent 1915 serving in the British Army Medical Corps as an orderly with the rank of private, working in a military hospital in London. In his spare time, he painted canvasses inspired by the Great War and what he had witnessed during his short time in France. The paintings were heavily influenced by the Futurist movement, geometrically stylised to emphasize speed and movement. Nevinson, like the Futurists and the British ‘Vorticists’, felt that such styles were suited to depict the mechanisation and dynamism of modern life, technology and warfare. His painting Returning to the Trenches (1915) which depicted a column of French infantry marching along a road back to the Front and painted in a semi-abstracted, geometric fashion, was exhibited in London that year and received much praise and attention (and not a little controversy). Another painting Hunting the Taube (above) depicted a trio of British planes chasing a German Etrich Taube (‘Dove’) reconnaissance plane, rendered in the same Futurist style.
Nevinson came down with rheumatic fever in January 1916, an illness severe enough to have him invalided out of the RAMC. He continued to paint and exhibit, his artistic reputation steadily growing throughout that year. Early that year he painted an oil La Mitrailleuse, a painting depicting a trio of French soldiers operating a heavy machine-gun, rendering in a geometric, simplified style which starkly emphasized the dehumanising effect of technology. The success of this painting led to a one-man show at the Leicester Gallery in London in October which was a major success. In 1916, Nevinson’s style changed to a degree, moving towards realism but still retaining the influences of Cubism with simplified tones, harshly angular lines and strong contasts in colours.
In April 1917, Nevinson was recommended by Muirhead Bone for the Official War Artists Scheme and he was appointed to be one that same month. He was sent to France in July and remained there for a month. During his time in France, he took several risks and ventured to sectors that he hadn’t been authorised to, including flying sorties as an observer with the RFC, spending a night in an observation balloon on the Somme and visiting a forward listening post where he was pinned down by enemy fire for over an hour. Nevinson received a reprimand from his superiors for the latter exploit.
Returning to Britain, Nevinson began producing a series of paintings and lithographs based on what he had observed in France. During this period, he began to have a crisis of conscience, feeling that his previous artistic styles were too divorced from reality and were in-adequate for conveying the true emotional impact and scale of the war. He began to paint in a more realist style, using a limited palette of browns and greys. Nevinson’s new work attracted much attention, making him an ‘art celebrity’ in Britain which appealed to his ego and professional vanity but his paintings drew criticism from two directions. Firstly, critics and fellow artists who had praised his previous works now disliked his change of style, dismissing his works as melodramatic and lacking subtlety and artistic originality. And from the opposite quarter, his work drew disapproval from officialdom who disliked the stark realism and anti-war sentiments in some of his works, in particular his painting Paths of Glory which depicted two British soldiers sprawled dead in no-man’s land. This painting was censored from his exhibition. A furious Nevinson included the painting in the show but hung it wrapped in brown paper with the word ‘censored’ written across it. For this act of protest he was severely reprimanded.
In 1918, Nevinson was allowed to make another, albeit brief, visit to France where he went to several casualty-clearing stations to make sketches for a large painting. He was offered the honorary rank of 2nd-Lieutenant but Nevinson refused, fearing that the rank would render him liable for further military service. Later that year he produced his largest painting of the war Harvest of Battle- depicting a line of walking wounded making their way to the rear through a hellish battlefield of water-logged shell craters & mud. The painting drew much praise and attention but it was also criticised by some for its lack of artistic merit and its melodramatic tone. Nevinson steadily alienated many of his former friends and admirers with his ego, his extreme sensitivity to criticism, his self-exaggerated boasting of his wartime experiences, his persecution complex and his extreme moodiness. When a large exhibition of British war art was held in London in December 1919, Nevinson was so outraged his painting Harvest of Battle was not hung in the main hall but instead in one of the side galleries, he accused the hanging committee of a conspiracy against him. He angrily ranted and harangued the committee for weeks, ruining his friendship with Muirhead Bone who had been one of the show’s curators.
During the inter-war period, Nevinson continued to have moderate success with his work although critics were soon commenting that with the war over, his best work was behind him. He produced a number of landscapes and historic pictures, using an increasingly naturalistic style although he still used futurist methods occasionally such as his anti-Fascist painting The 20th Century (1932) which was ironic given that some of the original Italian Futurist artists embraced the Fascist movement. Noted writer and critic Kenneth Clark wrote a scathing review of Nevinson’s work in the 1930s and the two quickly became enemies. When Clark was appointed to chair the official British war artist scheme in the Second World War, Nevinson, unsurprisingly, was not invited. He submitted three paintings anyway but these were rejected. However two others, depicting the London Blitz, were later purchased. Nevinson worked as a volunteer stretcher bearer in London during the war and his house & studio were badly damaged by bombs. One of his final paintings Battlefields of Britain was presented to Winston Churchill as a gift and it hangs in 10 Downing Street to this day. Paralysed by a severe stroke, Nevinson died in 1946.
Spiral Descent– Oil by Christopher Nevinson (1915)
Diving on a Taube– Lithograph by Christopher Nevinson (1916)
Swooping Down on an Enemy Plane – Oil by Christopher Nevinson (1916)
War in the Air– Oil by Christopher Nevinson (1917)
Night Bombing Mission– Oil by Christopher Nevinson (1917)
Nieuport Scout– Oil by Christopher Nevinson (1917)
Three British Biplanes– Oil by Christopher Nevinson (1918)
February 25, 2013
Instructions in Propeller Swinging-July 1918– Watercolour & Ink by Charles William Jefferys.
Charles William Jefferys (1869-1951) was a Canadian artist and illustrator of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born in England, his family emigrated to Canada when he was 11 years-old. The family settled in Toronto and after finishing his schooling, Jefferys was apprenticed to a lithography firm where he worked for five years until 1890. He then worked for the Toronto Globe as an illustrator for three years before moving to New York, USA where he was employed by the New York Post, a position he held until 1901. Returning to Canada, he worked freelance as an illustrator, completing numerous works for various books and magazines. He also founded the Graphic Artists Club of Canada and he taught painting & drawing at the University of Toronto between 1912 and 1939. Jeffreys had a realist, traditional style and his works are valued today primarily for their historical depictions of Canadian life at the turn of the century.
During the Great War, Jeffreys was hired by the Canadian War Records Department as an official war artist. Jefferys was not sent overseas, instead he was tasked with depicting various aspects of recruit-training at army & air-force bases at Camps Petawawa and Niagara in Canada.
February 25, 2013
Le Sars, FE Crashed – Watercolour by William Orpen, 1917.
William Orpen (1878-1931) was an Irish-born painter who developed a major reputation in the early decades of the 20th century. He studied art in Dublin as a young man and his achievements as a student prompted the prestigous Slade School of Art in London to offer him a place in 1897. Orpen’s early work was realist and highly traditional, influenced by old masters such as Van Eyck and Vermeer.
In 1903, Orpen ran his own teaching studio in London and his work came under the influence of the Impressionist & Post-Impressionist movements, becoming freer and more modernist in his use of colour and texture. At the same time, the Celtic Revival was underway in his native Ireland, coinciding with the growth of the Irish Independence Movement. Orpen became more conscious of his Irish heritage and his nationalistic feelings influenced his work. However he remained in London and he became very much an integral part of the artistic and cultural scene, not to mention well-known amidst high society. His full-length portraits, rendered in the flamboyant, so-called ‘swagger style’ of the era, became highly sought after by London’s elite and by 1914, Orpen was the most commercially successful artist living in Britain.
In 1915, Orpen was commissioned into the British Army’s Service Corps. He worked part-time as a clerk at Kensington Barracks whilst he continued to paint in his off-duty hours. Orpen was good friends with Philip Sassoon, personal secretary to General Haig and he used his friend’s influence to secure a position as an official war artist, despite the reluctance of the committee to hire him. Haig even personally intervened to allow Orpen a commission as a Major and freedom to spent as much time in France as he wished, unlike other official artists who were commissioned as 2nd-Lieutenants and were allowed only three weeks at the Front. Orpen was allowed to reside in comfortable lodgings behind the lines and had a personal chaffeur, batman and servant as well as an army guide. Orpen produced numerous works during his period as a war artist and he took full advantage of his priviledged position and influence, often refusing to submit works to the censors before sending them to Britain.
Orpen toured the old battlefield of the Somme in late 1917, much of it now deserted after the fighting had moved on elsewhere. He was both fascinated and appalled by the desolate and haunting fields, littered with skeletal corpses and debris and this prompted considerable artistic changes in his work. Amongst his most famous paintings were Two Dead Germans in a Trench, Zonnebeke and The Schwaben Redoubt. He also painted numerous portraits of high-ranking officers and well-known RFC pilots, including Lieutenant Arthur Rhys-Davids of No 56 Squadron whom Orpen painted a portrait of only a week before the former was killed in action in the autumn of 1917.
In 1919, during the peace conference that led to the Treaty of Versailles, Orpen was commissioned to produce three large paintings depicting the event. For the third picture, he painted a coffin draped in a Union Jack lying in the Hall of Mirrors at the palace, flanked by two ghostly British soldiers clad in disshevelled, torn rags and, above them, he added two cherubs holding garlands of flowers. When first exhibited in London, the painting entitled To the Unknown British Soldier in France, was hugely popular with the public but received damning reviews in the press and by former soldiers who condemned it as showing poor taste and accusing Orpen of trivialising such a tragic, solemn event. Orpen later painted the figures out, leaving just the flag-covered coffin, and the painting was accepted by the Imperial War Museum.
A major exhibition of Orpen’s war art was held in London in 1919 and was a major success. Orpen fell seriously ill in early 1931 and died in September of that year at the age of 52.
February 25, 2013
The Incident for which Lieutenant F H McNamara was Awarded the VC -Oil by H Septimus Power (1924)
Harold Septimus Power (1877-1951) was a New Zealand-born painter who achieved a successful career prior to the Great War and devoted most of the post-war period to producing war art. Power’s family emigrated to Australia when he was a child and he studied art in Adelaide, South Australia. He had his first exhibition in Melbourne in 1899 and he was a successful cartoonist and illustrator in Adelaide for the next six years. Power studied art in Paris in 1905-1907 and then settled in London, becoming a successful painter of equestrian scenes & landscapes, employing a traditional, painterly-realist style.
After the outbreak of the Great War, Power was hired by the Australian Government as an official war artist in 1917. He was attached to the 1st Division AIF and he spent time in Palestine and France. His abilities in drawing and painting horses and camels came to the fore in his war paintings. After the end of the war, Power was hired by the Australian war records department to continue producing paintings that depicted Australia’s war effort. His only aviation painting (above) was painted in his London studio in 1924 after interviewing the Australian pilot, Frank McNamara.
February 25, 2013
‘View from the Cockpit’– Watercolour by Rudolph Stark
Rudolph Stark (1897- 1982) was a German pilot during the Great War who achieved the status of ‘Ace’. He was also a talented watercolourist and produced a number of works after the war depicting aerial combat, closely based on his own memories and experiences.
Born in Bavaria, Stark served for the first two years of the Great War in a Uhlan Regiment and was decorated for bravery. Transferring to the airforce and training as a pilot in 1917, he flew with a reconnaissance unit for two months before joining a fighter squadron- Jasta 34- in January 1918. In May, he was transferred to Jasta 77 as its acting CO before being re-assigned to take command of Jasta 35 the following month. Stark flew Fokker Dr.1 triplanes, Pfalz D.XIIs and Fokker D.VIIs during his combat career. By the end of the war, he was credited with eleven Allied aircraft confirmed shot down plus an additional five un-confirmed.
After the end of hostilities, Stark fled the impoverished and politically unstable post-war Germany and lived in South Africa. He returned to Germany in 1926 and still found it difficult to survive financially. He employed his artistic talents to earn a living as a poster artist. In 1933, he wrote an memoir Wings of War detailing his experiences as a wartime pilot and he produced the painting that illustrated the front cover. Stark remained bitter about his country’s defeat in the Great War and he remained a fierce patriot and nationalist as evidenced in his published writings.
Details about the remainder of his life are scarce, including any details of his activities during the Second World War. He is known to have worked in commercial aviation at some point. Stark died in 1982.
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