1942: Battlefields

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Christopher R. W. Nevinson: Battlefields of Britain (1942)

During the First World War, the painter and printmaker Christopher R. W. Nevinson served in Flanders and France as an ambulance driver with the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was granted leave from the army as an invalid in 1916, and was appointed an Official War Artist the following year. He was the first artist to accompany aerial missions, representing the experience on airplanes, balloons and dirigibles.

The painting above, composed in an airplane cockpit, was inspired by a line from a sonnet by the American pilot John Gillepsie Magee, who had died in the war in 1941:

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor even eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high, untrespassed sanctity of space
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

Nevinson suffered from depression at the outbreak of the Second World War and his health declined dramatically. He died in 1946 at the age of fifty-seven.

Sources here and here.

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