Muirhead Bone, Britain's official artist of the First World War, made dozens of extraordinary drawings to catalogue the scenes he witnessed. Country Life published many of those pictures at the time; here is a selection.
In the Spring of 1916, Charles Masterman, head of the British War Propaganda Bureau, acting on the advice of artist William Rothenstein, appointed Muirhead Bone as Britain’s first official war artist.
Bone was sent to the front in August 1916 at the height of the Somme Offensive and toured the southern battlefields working rapidly in various media – pencil, pen, charcoal and chalk – before sending back over 150 finished drawings by October.
Over the course of his appointment he also spent time with the Royal Navy and returned to France in 1917. Many of the drawings from that second visit focused on the ruined architecture of France and Belgium as well as the human toll.
The body of work is a fascinating record of the war which, as is so often the case with the war artists, somehow goes beyond the more straightforward representations provided by photography. Indeed, the artist himself – already well-known when he was recruited – reached new levels in his craft. As Charles Marriott wrote in Country Life in December 1916, ‘the Western Front has deepened his emotions and extended their range in a manner that one had hardly believed possible. There is not a phase of the soldier’s life that he has not touched upon with full sympathy.’
Here is a selection of some of the images:
- Download Country Life’s article on Muirhead Bone from December 1916
- Download ‘The Western Front: Drawings by Muirhead Bone’, as published by Country Life in 1917
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