image: A devastated battlefield pocked with rain-filled shell-holes, flooded trenches and shattered trees lit by unearthly beams of light from an apocalyptic sky. Two figures pick their way along a tree-lined road, the road punctuated by shell-holes and lined by tree stumps. The foreground is filled with concrete blocks, barbed wire and corrugated iron, while columns of mud from artillery fire rise up in the background.
Nash received the commission for this work, which was orginally to have been called 'A Flanders Battlefield', from the Ministry of Information in April 1918. It was to feature in a Hall of Remembrance devoted to ‘fighting subjects, home subjects and the war at sea and in the air’. The centre of the scheme was to be a coherent series of paintings based on the dimensions of Uccello’s ‘Battle of San Romano’ in the National Gallery (72 x 125 inches), this size being considered suitable for a commemorative battle painting. While the commissions included some of the most avant-garde British artists of the time, the British War Memorials Committee advisors saw the scheme as firmly within the tradition of European art commissioning, looking to models from the Renaissance. It was intended that both the art and the setting would celebrate national ideals of heroism and sacrifice. However, the Hall of Remembrance was never built and the work was given to the Imperial War Museum. Nash worked on the painting from June 1918 to February 1919. Nash suggested the following inscription for the painting. 'The picture shows a tract of country near Gheluvelt village in the sinister district of 'Tower Hamlets', perhaps the most dreaded and disastrous locality of any area in any of the theatres of War.'
Two soldiers try to follow the line of a road that has been mutilated, almost beyond recognition. In fact, the whole landscape has been re-arranged, with the giant concrete blocks epitomising this harsh new order: the bursts of sunlight have become gun barrels; the reflections of trees, steel structures. This was Nash's painting for the proposed Hall of Remembrance: 'The picture shows a tract of country near Gheluvelt village in the sinister district of 'Tower Hamlets', perhaps the most dreaded and disastrous locality of any area in any of the theatres of War.'
Ministry of Information commission, Scheme 2. Commission administration transferred to Imperial War Museum
Paul Nash 1919