BELLEAU WOOD has been inspired by the first independent action of the Americans in WWI and is part of my series of work commemorating some of the people places and events of WWI, a hundred years on. Visiting the site of such important battle sites especially at the centenary is very emotional and inspirational at the same time and often as in this case the image of the painting that I will be creating forms in my creative consciousness on site before it flows onto canvas. This trust is known as intuitive art and is a magical process that enables art to be created in a emotional and energetic way. The memorial and cemetery at Belleau Wood was looking immaculately cared for and dressed for the centenary commemorations with every grave having the American Stars and Stripes and the French flag in front of them. Many beautiful flower wreaths lay in front of the memorial from the commemoration service with rose bushes, plane trees and bushes lining the paths and roads.
In early May 1918 the American Marines replaced French units in the Belleau Wood area and on the 6th June entered the wood to clear the area of German units who had been holding the wood. The battle lasted 20 days amidst fierce fighting that led to the Germans nicknaming the Marines, Devil Dogs a name that persists to this day.The American forces proved themselves in this action and rallied the allies into winning the war later in the year. Hence the significance of Belleau Wood in the process of winning WWI for the allies.
Despite the victory the Battle of Belleau Wood led to significant losses of men of the 4th Marine Brigade. Of 9,500 men, the brigade suffered 1,062 killed in action, and 4,000 wounded, gassed, or missing equaling a 55 percent casualty rate. The supporting 2nd Regiment of Engineers lost another 450 casualties of its assigned unit strength of 1,700 soldiers. Imagine walking in those woods where so many perished on both sides during the fiercest of battles!
The images here show some of the development of the painting through to the finished piece of art. The rainbow represents one of the Marine Corps emblem taken from the stained glass window found in the Chapel of Remembrance at the site. The poppies represent the blood and death of 1062 soldiers of America in the Battle of Belleau Wood as they fought their way through the trees.
The swirls are possibly the souls and the spirit of the soldiers as they live on in the hearts of those who remember them. The swirls took many hours to complete as I had to keep stopping as they were making my eyes go funny if I worked on them for too long….I refer to this as going ‘doo lally.’
The original piece has created tears of emotion from the energies and reflections that it caused when first shown in my studio.
For more about my series of art commemorating some of the events, people and places of WWI in my blogs on my website www.charronpugsleyhill.com