image: The corpses of two dead British soldiers lying face down in the mud among barbed wire. Their helmets and rifles lie in the mud next to them.
In one of Nevinson's most famous paintings, we see the bodies of two dead British soldiers behind the Western Front. The title is a quote from 'Elegy Written In A Country Church-Yard' by Thomas Gray. 'The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r, And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, Awaits alike th'inevitable hour. The paths of glory lead but to the grave.' Whereas the poet reflects on bodies dead and buried in a church-yard, the so-called 'Paths of Glory' have led these soldiers to death in a wasteland. 'Paths of Glory' was famously censored by the official censor of paintings and drawings in France, Lieutenant - Colonel A N Lee. His concern presumably being the representation of the rotting and bloated British corpses at this stage in the war. The decision was confirmed three months before the opening of his exhibition at the Leicester Galleries in 1918 but Nevinson still included the painting with a brown paper strip across the canvas, blatantly inscribed with the word 'censored'. As a result, Nevinson was reprimanded for exhibiting a censored image and for the unauthorised use of the word ‘censored’ in a public space. Predictably, the stunt created the publicity Nevinson desired. The painting was purchased by the Museum during the course of the exhibition.
The title is a quote from Thomas Gray’s ‘Elegy Written in a Country Church-yard’: The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r, And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, Awaits alike th'inevitable hour. The paths of glory lead but to the grave.In CRW Nevinson’s image, not even the grave appears a possibility: the two dead British soldiers lying among the remnants of a recent offensive have been forgotten and their bodies are bloated as they slowly begin to decompose. This confrontational image was famously censored only three months before it was to be exhibited in 1918. Nevinson still included the painting in the show, with a band of brown paper across the canvas inscribed with the word 'censored'.
Imperial War Museum purchase under terms of Nevinson's commission with the Ministry of Information
C.R.W. NEVINSON. 1917.