National exhibition commemorates First World War

Wilfred-Owen by John Gunston, 1916 © National Portrait Gallery, London
Wilfred-Owen by John Gunston, 1916 © National Portrait Gallery, London

The National Portrait Gallery is to open its doors next week for the first national exhibition of paintings commemorating the centenary of WWI.

Wilfred Owen by John Gunston, 1916 © National Portrait Gallery, London
Wilfred Owen by John Gunston, 1916 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Opening on 27 February, The Great War Portraits will demonstrate how the First World War was depicted and reported, using a variety of mediums including photographs, film and formal portraits. Alongside iconic portraits of Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen (above) and Winston Churchill, the exhibition will also trace the lives of those who served throughout the Commonwealth, from all social classes.

Portraits of Victoria Cross holders, medal-winners, heroes and aces will be juxtaposed with depictions of those whose lives were marked in different ways, such as casualties, people who suffered disfigurements, prisoners of war, and those shot at dawn for cowardice.

Torso in Metal from 'The Rock Drill', by Sir Jacob Epstein 1913-4, Image © Tate, London 2014
Torso in Metal from ‘The Rock Drill’, by Sir Jacob Epstein 1913-4, Image © Tate, London 2014

Highlights of the exhibition include Jacob Epstein’s Torso in Metal From Rock Drill, (pictured) a radical sculpture, which is one of the early modernist works related to the war. The sculpture as it is seen today is actually an amendment of an earlier work, Rock Drill, which had shown a plaster figure on top of an actual pneumatic rock drill.

Following the brutality of the war, Epstein cut the figure down, cast it in bronze and showed the mutilated form of the once powerful figure.

Works are on loan from: Imperial War Museums; Tate; Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, Munich; Allen Memorial Art Museum; the Royal Airforce Museum, Hendon; Oberlin College, Ohio; The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge; and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

The exhibition will run until 15 June 2014 at the National Portrait Gallery, London, and is free to visit.

Related articles

Exhibition celebrates role of the Post Office in war years
Britain’s must-see museums
20th century Britain
Monuments Men film shot at British airbase

Click here to subscribe!
SHARE