An Advanced Dressing Station in France, 1918

Catalogue number
  • Art.IWM ART 1922
Department
Art and Popular Design
Production date
1918
Subject period
Materials
  • Support: canvas
  • medium: oil
Dimensions
  • Support: Height 1828 mm, Width 2184 mm
  • Frame: Depth 68, Height 2175, Width 2532
Alternative names
  • object category: painting
Creator
Category
art
IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUMS

© IWM (Art.IWM ART 1922)

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Object description

image: A dressing station sited by a ruined church. The scene is crowded with casualties, many being brought in by stretcher-bearers. The men have bandaged limbs and some have head wounds. In the sky above there are dark grey clouds, possibly of smoke, in the left half of the composition, and patches of blue on the right.

Label

This is one of a series of paintings commissioned by the British War Memorial Committee set up by the Ministry of Information early in 1918. The Committee developed a scheme to build a ‘Great memorial gallery’ 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 BWMC advisors saw the scheme placed within the tradition of artistic patronage, influenced by models from the Renaissance. It was intended that both the art and the setting would celebrate national ideals of heroism and sacrifice. The Hall of Remembrance was never completed and the collection was given to the Imperial War Museum.

Label

Henry Tonks is perhaps better-known for being the drawing master at the Slade School of Art and teacher to the likes of Paul Nash, Stanley Spencer and CRW Nevinson. He also was a surgeon and during the First World War served with the Royal Army Medical Corps. Therefore, Tonks was an apt choice for a commission from the British War Memorials Committee to depict an advanced medical dressing station. The painting captures a scene amid a German offensive in 1918, within which Tonks makes full use of his medical expertise to showcase a wide range of injuries, treatments and field dressings. The finished painting was intended to be hung in a purpose built Hall of Remembrance, to celebrate national ideals of heroism and sacrifice. However, the Hall was never realised after the First World War and Tonks’s painting, along with other commissioned works, were transferred to the Imperial War Museum.

History note

Ministry of Information commission Scheme 1. Commission administration transferred to Imperial War Museum

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