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drawing

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1919,0208.8

  • Description

    Battle of the Somme, August 18, 1916, Mametz village and wood; soldiers standing and seated amid hillocks at left, others standing near crosses at r, smoke rising from areas of woodland beyond Pen and ink and grey wash over graphite sketch

  • Producer name

  • School/style

  • Date

    • 1916
  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 250 millimetres
    • Width: 355 millimetres
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Content

        Inscribed and dated: "Muirhead Bone Aug. 1916."
  • Curator's comments

    The British Museum has a collection of 125 drawings of World War I by Muirhead Bone. For more information see Curator's comment 1919,0208.1.The present drawing is recorded as being part of Muirhead Bone's first group of war drawings: 'Drawings made on the first visit to the Front, during and after the Battle of the Somme, August-December, 1916' (1919,0208.1-49).

    Bone was very diligent in his recording of the Front and by December 1916, he had sent nearly 200 drawings to Wellington House. Unlike some of his future co-workers, Bone only drew what he saw. He later explained 'I do not like to imagine war scenes and so only drew what I saw, and this only when I had a chance to digest it' (Sylverster Bone, p. 100). He thus worked in situ, making sketches of the war in an 8 by 4 inch notebook and touched up his drawings upon his return to the base. As requested in his assignment, his work did not offer scenes of raging battles but of the impact of those battles and the life of the soldiers behind the lines. In 'The Western Front', both Montague and General Haig emphasize the inadequacy of the pen to describe the devastation of the landscape or the terrible living conditions on the Front and praised the quality of Bone's drawings for their ability to express these sombre conditions of war.

    The present watercolour, representing a war-torn landscape, is dated 18 August 1916 and was made by Bone two days after arriving in France, in the midst of the Battle of the Somme. The battle began on the 1st of July 1916 and ended in November 1916 but Bone remained there, sketching, until December. 'The Battle of the Somme' was published in 1917 in part I of 'The Western Front' (pl. VI) with the following caption by C.E. Montague, a former journalist for the Manchester Guardian: 'An exciting moment in the fighting for the summit ridge of the battlefield in August, 1916. All the British guns have just burst into action and our infantry are advancing unseen in the cloud of smoke on the sky-line. The puffs of smoke high in the air are from bursting shrapnel. The battle is seen from King George's Hill, near the old German front line, taken on July 1st, 1916. Below, among the ravaged trees, are the ruins of Mametz; beyond them, Mametz Wood; beyond it again, the wood of Bazentin-le-Petit.' The watercolour was also published in part I of 'War Drawings by Muirhead Bone' (pl. IV) in 1917.

    Further Reading:
    F. Carey, 'Some Versions of Pastoral', in K. Sloan (ed.), Places of the Mind: British watercolour landscapes 1850-1950, (London, 2017), pp. 140-171.
    Sylvester Bone, 'Muirhead Bone, Artist and Patron', London 2009.
    'War Drawings by Muirhead Bone', part I, London 1917.
    'The Western Front. Drawings by Muirhead Bone, with text by C.E. Montague and an introduction by Field-Marshall Sir Douglas Haig', vol. 1, London 1917.

    [This entry was written by Catherine Boël, Anne Chritopherson Fellow in the Department of Prints and Drawings, November 2016.]

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  • Location

    On display: G90

  • Exhibition history

    2017 23 Feb-27 Aug, London, BM, G90, Places of the Mind: British Landscape watercolours 1850-1950

  • Subjects

  • Associated places

  • Associated events

    • Associated Event: Battle of the Somme
    • Associated Event: First World War
      1914-1918
  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1919

  • Department

    Prints & Drawings

  • Registration number

    1919,0208.8

Battle of the Somme, August 18, 1916, Mamet village and wood; soldiers standing and seated amid hillocks at l, others standing near crosses at r, smoke rising from areas of woodland beyond Pen and black ink and grey wash

Recto

Battle of the Somme, August 18, 1916, Mamet village and wood; soldiers standing and seated amid hillocks at l, others standing near crosses at r, smoke rising from areas of woodland beyond Pen and black ink and grey wash

Reproduced by permission of the artist. © The Trustees of the British Museum

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