Sunday, 3 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 among the poets he chose are quite a few on my List of Forgotten Poets of the First World War.  I have already written panels for some of the poets from Lawrence's book where you will find poems by Laurence Binyon, Rupert Brooke, John McCrae, Charles Hamilton Sorley, Alan Seeger, Thomas Kettle, Isaac Rosenberg, Francis Ledwidge,  Edmund Blunden and Edward Thomas.  Also featured are poems by Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen but they don't need to be on the Forgotten Poets list…

I already knew the names of quite a few 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.

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 

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