Saturday, 2 May 2015

Book Review: "Images of the Great War" by Lawrence Dunn, published by Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd., London, 2015


Lawrence Dunn, an artist from Sunderland, guides us through a brief history of the First World War featuring a selection of images by some of the British and Empire artists, cartoonists, poets, photographers and sculptors of the time -  paintings, drawings, illustrations and photographs, many of which are from the author's own collection.  With the skill that only an artist has, Lawrence encourages us to have a closer look at some of those works and in so doing brings the conflict to life as never before. In many instances, Lawrence also invites the reader to compare the styles of artists who have painted the same view or person.  

Lawrence includes poetry in between each artist featured, skilfully creating a bridge to the next artist. I was very pleased to see that the female poets he chose are all on my List of Female Poets of the First World War.  I have already written panels for some of the female poets from Lawrence's book, where you will find poems by: Beatrix Brice Miller who went to France in 1914 as a 'lady helper' with her mother who was a trained nurse, Jessie Pope who was a volunteer at St Dunstan's Home for the Blind (now Blind Veterans UK) and whose poetry these days I feel has been misunderstood, Lucy Foster Whitmell, Vera Brittain who was a nurse during WW1, Lady Margaret Sackville, Iris Tree, Winifred Mabel Letts who was a masseuse/physiotherapist with the Almeric Paget Unit during WW1, May Wedderburn Cannan who helped out at the Coffee Stall on Rouen station, Anna Gordon Keown, Alice Meynell, Katharine Tynan, Elinor Jenkins, Muriel Elsie Graham, May Hershel-Clarke, Mary H.J. Henderson, Eileen Newton, Emily Orr and Doprothy Una Ratcliffe.

I already knew the names of some of the WW1 artists that Lawrence has included but there were many that were new to me.  I was interested to see that Lawrence has dedicated the book to his second cousin, Corporal Michael Davison of the Northumberland Fusiliers (1st Tyneside Irish).  Michael was an underground putter at Ryhope Colliery when he enlisted in 1914 and was killed on the first day of the Battle of Arras - Easter Monday, 9th April 1917.  My great-uncle James Yule was a Private in the Northumberland Fusiliers, 23rd (Tyneside Scottish) Battalion and he too was killed on 9th April 1917, as were the poets R.E. Vernède and Edward Thomas,  

Beginning with Lady Elizabeth Butler, both male and female WW1 artists of all disciplines are represented in the book - painters, cartoonists, photographers, sculptors and so on.  But this book is not just about the artists, poets and pictures of WW1, Lawrence goes into detail about some of the battles and includes personal stories about the artists and the areas and subjects depicted.   On page 137 you will find paintings by the artist William Patrick Roberts, who was at the Battle of Arras on 9th April 1917 and is therefore of special interest to me.

If I had to choose one picture, it would be "Merry-Go-Round" by Mark Gertler - it reminds me very much of the recent commemorative WW1 painting by the artist Ruth Swartberg entitled "Faceless Riders". 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and would highly recommend it.  "Images of the Great War" by Lawrence Dunn, published by Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd., London, 2015.

For further information about the author please follow the link:  http://www.austinmacauley.com/author/dunn-lawrence
 

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