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The Ypres Salient at Night

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Catalogue number
  • Art.IWM ART 1145
Production date
1918
Place made
Great Britain
Subject period
Materials
  • medium: oil
  • support: panel
Dimensions
  • Support: Height 714 mm
  • Support: Width 920 mm
  • Frame: Height 902 mm
  • Frame: Width 1100 mm
  • Frame: Depth 50 mm
Alternative Names
  • object category: painting
Creator
Category
art

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Object description

image: A night scene showing three soldiers on the fire step of a trench surprised by a brilliant star shell lighting up the view over the battlefield. On the left there is a flooded shell-hole, beyond which stand three other soldiers, overlooked by a woodland of tree stumps.

Label

Painted in 1918 in his capacity as an official war artist, this work depicts a landscape well-known to Nash during his active service in the Ypres Salient with the Hampshire Regiment in 1916 and 1917. During the First World War Ypres and its outlying villages were the focus for three immense battles (October-November 1914, April-May 1915, and July-November 1917) as well as being subjected to the near constant attentions of German artillery. Ypres and its ill-favoured salient became of symbolic importance to the British Army High Command. It was a strategic location they were loath to surrender, and represented their determination. Nash’s appreciation of its significance, as ‘a monument to doggedness’ is documented in his correspondence. The painting itself is filled with details all who had served there would recognise. The raised earth walls of the breastwork ‘trench’ (indicating the presence of surface water in this low-lying area) are supported by frameworks of timber and expanded wire, with a base of curved corrugated iron. The anonymous figures of the sentries on the fire step keep their heads down in the dazzling light supplied by the star shells bursting in the dark night sky. A peculiar feature of the Salient was the disorientation, caused by the changes in direction of the line, experienced by the defenders; this was often exacerbated at night by the almost constant discharge of shells, signal rockets and observation flares by both sides.

 

The Salient was well known to Nash through his service and the painting itself is filled with recognisable details. The raised earth walls of the breastwork 'trench' (indicating the presence of surface water in this low-lying area) are supported by frameworks of timber and expanded wire, with a base of curved corrugated iron. The sentries on the fire step keep their heads down in the dazzling light supplied by the star shells. A peculiar feature of the Salient was the disorientation experienced by the defenders, caused by the changes in direction of the line, and exacerbated at night by the flashes of shells and flares.

History note

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Inscription

Paul Nash 1918

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