The Cenotaph: Original Design for the Structure in Whitehall

Catalogue number
  • Art.IWM ART 3991 b
Art and Popular Design
Production date
Subject period
  • Support: paper
  • medium: Pencil
  • medium: ink
  • medium: wash
  • Support: Height 376 mm, Width 473 mm
  • Mount: Height 509 mm, Width 685 mm
Alternative names
  • object category: drawing
Gift of the artist, 1920

© Photo IWM (Art.IWM ART 3991 b)

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Object description

image: the finished design for the Cenotaph on Whitehall, London. To the left the Cenotaph is shown from the front, with the design for the side on the right of the composition. Between these two designs is a two dimensional depiction of the structure.


Lutyens was first approached informally by Sir Alfred Mond, First Commissioner of Works in Lloyd George’s government in June 1919, to design a monument to mark the signing of the Peace Treaty. Following discussions with Clemenceau and the Peace Celebrations Committee, Lloyd George met Lutyens in early July 1919 and asked him to design a catafalque for Whitehall, to be part of the Peace Day events on 19th July. Lutyens’ alternative suggestion of a cenotaph was agreed. Later that day Lutyens presented drawings to Sir Frank Baines, based on his previous design for Mond. The final design was based on measurements of the Parthenon. In the classical manner, all the surfaces were subtly curved; the verticals would meet at a point 1000 feet above the ground and the horizontals, 900 feet to the side. Stripped of all literal elements (at Lutyens' insistence four soldiers at the base were not included), the simplicity and dignity of the monument became the immediate focus for national grief. The wood and plaster structure was unveiled on 18th July and was originally intended to stand for a week. Its extraordinary popularity extended this to January 1920 when the weather finally forced its removal. In the meantime a slightly revised design was accepted by the Cabinet for a permanent memorial, again sited in Whitehall and unveiled on Armistice Day, 1920. The Cenotaph remains the central focus of remembrance.

Physical description

Media includes red pen, blue pencil crayon and red, yellow, blue and green watercolour. Previously folded vertically into three sections.


ELL. 4-6-19

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Fair Dealing

All Rights Reserved except for Fair Dealing exceptions otherwise permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, as amended and revised.