As part of the series of work that I am creating on significant places,events and people a hundred years on from WWI, I have this week been staying on Varlet Farm near Ypres to create a painting inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields today by John McCrae. This poem was brought to my attention recently by an article in a national newspaper and it all subsequently fell into place. This poem is the reason why we have the Poppy as our symbol of remembrance of the fallen in conflict. The photo below shows the poem handwritten by John McCrae on the 3 May 1915 which if you look at its deeper meaning shows how disillusioned he had become by the war and what it was doing to so many.
He was a doctor working treating the many many casualties close to the front line and he had very recently buried his closest friend at Essex Farm where he was working. Now Essex Farm Cemetery it has become a tranquil place but then it would have been chaotic and noisy much of the time. When he wrote the poem he hated it and threw it away only for it to be retrieved by another soldier who sent it to a paper in Canada who published it. The rest is history as they say! John died later in the war of pneumonia and never made it home like so many. He is buried near Boulogne in France.
The poppy has aways been my favourite flower, my dog is called Poppy and the first gift that my husband ever gave to me was a pressed poppy from The Somme before I was ever interested in The First World War. This poem, for me just had to be brought to life again in a painting and this was the main focus of the time in Belgium along side much other research on WWI. More on this in another blog.
This painting has been created partly at the farm where we were staying as strong winds made painting on site near impossible on several days-large canvases act as a sail in high winds and I have had one literally take off before. However I was determined that the flowers and especially the poppies were going on at Essex Farm where the poem was written so that the emotions and energies of the place were translated into the feel the painting and determined where the flowers were to go. The best way I think for me to describe how this feels is to say that it was such an intense emotional experience paying tribute to one man who helped so many and has had such a lasting impact on so many lives. At each place I visited I wrote whatever came into my head-for those of you who do not know me-I do not write,I do not believe that I can write well but I wrote, unaware of what I was writing, it just came and here it is for Essex Farm Cemetery.
The wind blows a gentle song
The daisies dance whilst the grasses shake
The branches wave a fond farewell to all the souls departed here
The memorial stands tall rising above all who come to see
The wind talks the stories of all who have been here before
Whether they left or are still here
Life stood still for all those who lie here
While todays people bustle and hustle in the modern day
The sense of a place
A moment caught in time echoes all around
whilst I sit taking in
The sense and soul of a place left behind
Row upon row where today the flowers grow
with colour and fragility, beauty to behold
where poppies and roses lay their souls to rest in this place
part of the modern world
Trees stand majestic and proud draping their boughs
over the men who lay here for all eternity
What sights have they seen
and history to be a part of
Tall sweeping song and there.
The painting IN FLANDERS FIELDS TODAY shown below takes all the emotion of Johns poem, the place and the flowers that grow there today. For me it is a special thing full of what happened in me in that place-momentous and it changed me and it changed my art forever. Such a special thing!
IN FLANDERS FIELDS TODAY
Acrylics, metallics and fine glitters 100 x 100 on canvas
Prints will be available to purchase soon-please get in touch if interested to pre-order. Hope you have enjoyed this blog and there will be a number of others about my time in Belgium so please come back soon to read those if you are interested!