Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Christopher Nevinson: War Pantings

Christopher Richard Wynne (C.R.W.) Nevinson (1889–1946) had a prickly personality, falling into and out of friendships with the likes of Wyndham Lewis and becoming a tad paranoid regarding Slade School instructor Henry Tonks, who didn't think much of his drawing ability. This and more is discussed in more detail in Nevinson's Wikipedia entry. For a shorter take, you might want to link to this Tate page.

At the time the Great War started, Nevinson was practicing Modernism in a Cubist-inspired manner to which was an added dash of Futurism. He volunteered for ambulance work in the French army zone of operations, returned to England for health reasons, and then went back to France as a British war artist. During this time his style evolved toward traditional realism, but not quite abandoning all of Modernism's quirks. After the war, he drifted from time to time to a Cubism-lite style  that was dropped again when he made some World War 2 paintings.

In the present post, his Great War paintings are featured.


Bursting Shell - 1915
Futurist influence is strong here. I can't tell if he is depicting an explosive shell or an illumination shell.

Pursuing a Taube - 1915
The Taube (Dove) was a type of German airplane.

La mitrailleuse - 1915
Probably Nevinson's most famous painting. It shows a French machine gun team in action.

Returning to the Trenches (study) - c.1915
This gives us a notion as to how Nevinson constructed his compositions at that time; a whoosh of Futurist movement along with Cubist segmentation.

Ypres After the First Bombardment - 1916
Although Cubist elements might be present, to me this seems Expressionist: think of the settings of the post-war (1920) German film Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari.

La patrie - 1916
"The Fatherland" depicts a French army evacuation station.

French Troops Resting - 1916

Dog Tired - 1916
Two takes on tired soldiers. The upper painting shows French soldiers apparently taking a break while either entering or leaving a combat zone. The lower image is of British soldiers behind the lines dealing with supplies (note the bales and boxes they are on and the fact that they are wearing cloth caps rather than helmets).

A Group of Soldiers - 1917
Modernism is ebbing away a little here.

A Tank - 1917
A British Mark V (Male) tank. Nevinson had it stubbier than it actually was.

Paths of Glory - 1917
This was controversial when it was new, as this Telegraph article explains. The style is more representational than that found in the previous paintings.


Hels said...

La mitrailleuse (1915), French Troops Resting (1916) and Paths of Glory (1917) are very well known and respected now. But I wonder how the censors felt about Nevinson's work during the war years. His honest, painful paintings could not have been seen as good for public morale.

Donald Pittenger said...

Hels -- The Telegraph link deals with the fact that Paths of Glory was indeed censored. Maybe some other were too, but not all.