A major new temporary exhibition to commemorate the centenary of the end of World War I – painted by those who saw the conflict first hand – is being held in Glasgow.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is hosting a Brushes with War; Art from the Front Line 14-18 exhibition, with will run until 6 January 2019.
Glasgow Museums will mark this significant anniversary with the European debut of a world-class exhibition of 219 original paintings and drawings by the troops who served in World War I. Following a chronological narrative Brushes with War; Art from the Front Line portrays most major battles and all aspects of the First World War.
Depicted in oils, watercolours and drawings the artworks were created by frontline soldiers from numerous countries from 1914 to 1918.
Most of the art presented in the exhibition is from the private collection of Joel Parkinson, owner and director of the World War History & Art Museum (WWHAM) in Alliance, Ohio, USA, with a further 16 works from Glasgow Museums’ collection.
Lender Joel Parkinson was at Kelvingrove Museum for its opening, and said: ‘I’ve had a lifelong interest in World War I and World War II. Both of my grandfathers served in the American Expeditionary Forces in France during the war.
‘Lieutenant John H. Geiszel, a fellow officer in my granddad’s company, painted him riding a horse and leading a machine gun squad through barbed wire to the front at night. I grew up listening to my granddad’s war stories and admiring that painting. I eventually inherited it and now proudly display it in my office, when it is not on loan.
‘The idea for Brushes with War came to me when I bought a second painting by British Gunner F. J. Mears, of several soldiers silhouetted at night as they walked across duckboards in a muddy, shell-ploughed No Man’s Land. It reminded me of the painting of my granddad. Looking at both I realised I had never seen other works by the actual troops who served.
‘My quest to acquire original art by the soldiers of World War I began. Today I’m honoured to share my collection with the visitors to Kelvingrove Museum, especially at such a poignant time as we approach the centenary of the Great War.’
The artworks illustrate the first-hand experiences and struggles through the eyes of the men who actually fought in combat, were wounded in action, taken prisoner and survived aerial dogfights. Independent of official censorship and free from the embellishment of popular propaganda the works share something of the soldiers’ personal brushes with war, capturing insights, moods and motifs often missed by official photographers and observers of the war.
Councillor David McDonald, the chair of Glasgow Life and depute leader of Glasgow City Council, said: ‘We are delighted to bring this incredibly poignant exhibition to Kelvingrove to commemorate the centenary of World War I. Brushes with War is a unique collection of work, every piece of art is one-of-a-kind.
‘The concept of gathering art created specifically by the troops of World War I, distinct from official publicity and work commissioned by war artists, presents a completely different offering from other museum exhibits.
‘It is incredibly important we mark the anniversary of such a significant occasion with something very special and I am certain visitors to Kelvingrove Museum will be moved by the scope and quality of the serving soldier-artists work on show.’
Brushes with War; Art from the Front Line charts the war from 1914 to 1918 with four sub-themes that depict the patriotic optimism in the early stages of war and the rapid escalation to a global conflict.
It then shifts to the hardship, monotony and dark humour of daily life in the trenches and the shared experiences of soldiers from different countries, as well as the increasing bitterness and horror at the enormous loss of life.
The final sections consider the USA entering the war in 1917 and the events that culminated in Armistice Day on 11 November 1918. It is comprised of international works by German, Austrian, French, Belgian, British, American, Canadian, Australian and Russian artists. In addition to its global perspective, the exhibition encompasses themes such as hospitals, prisoner-of-war camps and the war at sea and in the air.
These are complemented by two sections containing works from Glasgow Museums’ collection, including works by Percy Smith and Glasgow’s war artist, Fred Farrell.
Brushes with War; Art from the Front Line is one of three displays at Kelvingrove Museum in 2018 to mark the 100th anniversary of the ending of WW1 in November 2018.
Frank Brangwyn in World War I: Art in Aid of Blind Soldiers and Sailors, currently on show in the Fragile Art gallery presents a series of five lithographic prints illustrating the experience of a soldier in World War I who went to war, was blinded on the battlefield, hospitalised and then supported to learn a new trade.
I Say Nothing will be unveiled on the south balcony on 11 October 2018. The artwork, commissioned by 14-18 NOW and Glasgow Museums, supported by the Art Fund, has enabled Scottish artist Christine Borland to produce a bold and thought-provoking contemporary art commission, created in response to World War I related objects in Glasgow Museums’ collection.
Tickets cost £7 per adult/ £5 per concession, children under 16 free.
For more information visit www.glasgowmuseums.com.
A full colour book accompanies the exhibition, Joel R. Parkinson, Brushes With War: Paintings and Drawings by the Troops of World War I, Schiffer Publishing, Ltd, 2014. It is available from Kelvingrove Museum’s gift shop, priced at £60.