Truth & Memory, British Art of the First World War is a small, but interesting, and instructive, exhibition at the Imperial War Museum, Lambeth Road, which I visited, while the sun was shining, earlier today. It includes remarkable paintings by Nash, Spencer and Wyndham Lewis, but also by their lesser known contemporaries, like Eric Kennington, William Orpen and CRW Nevington, painter of the most famous, Paths of Glory, a painting banned from public exhibition as being dangerous to morale. Woman artists are represented, with stunning pictures by Anne Airey and others which were not put on public display at the time, despite their obvious quality. There is also Gassed by Singer Sargeant, a painting which is also a memorial.
Even more than the famous WWI poets, perhaps, the WWI artists changed the public’s perception of war, as artists were sent to the front line, for the first time, to record what they saw. Their depictions were of a new kind of warfare, of man as part of machine, and a new kind of landscape, the pillars and stumps which were once trees, the water or mud-filled shell holes and the blinding explosions. This exhibition, which finishes on 8th March 2015, is a major retrospective of what they produced.
It is tucked away on the third level, above the milling throng ( it is half term week ). There is ample opportunity to sit and contemplate the works, as it isn’t crowded ( and wasn’t last time I visited it, back at the start of September ). Entrance is free. Go and see it before it’s gone.