World War 1
World War I -Commemorating Significant Places, People and Events from 1915-1918.
This series of work is all about World War I (WWI)-telling some of the stories of the places, people and events from 1915-1918 in art some of which will be focused on links with Peterborough where I am based and some will be nationally and internationally focused.
WWI is an iconic fascinating part of our history and as the years go by many of the stories are being lost to the new generations that come along. This work is about commemorating these events in vibrant , colourful art and about telling these stories to ensure that they are not lost and that we all learn and connect with these people and places from our past moving into the future.
It is not something I planned to do! I only intended to paint one painting for the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WWI in 2014 and then it all just followed on a natural process of creation which now I have to continue through until 2018 and maybe beyond. Now it is a major part of my work for the next few years and you can see more information in the blogs on this website or on the pages in this section for each year.
1914 has been completed with the creation of 3 large vibrant paintings commemorating The Battle of Mons, The Battle of Le Cateau and The Christmas Truce. You can see the images and read the stories on the 1914 page in this section.
1915 has begun with the creation of a painting based on the Gallipoli Campaign. Other work this year will include EDITH CAVELL-THE BLANKET OF POPPIES and has already included work painted on site in Ypres Belgium commemorating the poem by John McCrae that led to the poppy being adopted as a symbol of remembrance. Please see the 1915 page for more information on these works and contact me email@example.com.
These paintings were created in 2014 to commemorate several of the significant battles and stories from 1914.
‘AND THEY FACED EACH OTHER’
Acrylics,metallics and fine glitters on canvas 101 x 76cm
Painted in 2014 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of The Great War, this painting captures the ethereal beauty of the wildflowers of the area around the Belgian town of Mons where the British and German armies first clashed. Poems from the time talk about eyes turning to heaven where larks are seen in the sky over the battlefield. In the painting the lark represents both a fleeing dove of peace and the angel who, as stories go, came down and fought to save British soldiers in peril. Extreme exhaustion during the retreat from Mons causing hallucination among the troops has been suggested as a source for this story. There are also references in poems to hares running on to the battlefield and the two hares’ silhouettes represent the two armies facing each other.
You can buy a print of this painting here
‘AND THEY WAITED’
Acrylics, metallics, metallic leaf and fine glitters 101 x 76 x 4cm
This painting was created in 2014 as part of a series to commemorate the 100th anniversary of The Great War. It is the 2nd of 3 paintings based on events from 1914. It captures dawn on 26th August and the beauty of a lone tree that stood close to the centre of the British position at Le Cateau. The German Artillery used the tree as a distance marker for their guns. The British had anticipated this and tried to chop it down, but the trunk was too thick for them to complete this task before the battle started.
The hare represents the British army waiting for the German to advance. The poppies are a sign of remembrance for all lives lost in the Great War.
This painting is special to me as it was about half way completed as my second commemorative piece before I was told the story of the “tree” at the Battle of Le Cateau -This is known as channeling in the art world.
You can buy a print of this painting here
‘AND THEY PLAYED AT CHRISTMAS’
Acrylics, metallics, fine glitters and beads on canvas 101 x 76cm
This painting is the third in a series commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. The story of the christmas truce is well-known, when the British and German troops ceased fighting on christmas eve 1914, unable or unwilling to ignore the season of peace and goodwill to all men. The Germans placed Christmas trees on the parapets of their trenches and carols were sung by both sides. In places, the men left their trenches and handshakes and gifts were exchanged. At a few places, where the terrain allowed, games of football were played. Unfortunately, the killing started again the next day. Lest we forget!
You can buy a print of this painting here
I would be very happy to hear your thoughts about these paintings and any stories that you have about these events. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
“AND THEY MARCHED INTO GALLIPOLI”
Acrylics, metallics and fine glitters on canvas 60 x 45cm
The Gallipoli Campaign was one of the Allies greatest disasters in World War I. The land invasion started at dawn on 25th April 1915 and ended on the 9th January 1916.
The campaign was one of the greatest Turkish victories of the war and it is regarded as a defining moment in Turkey’s history: a final surge in defence as the Ottoman Empire declined. The struggle formed the basis for the Turkish War of Independence and the founding of the Republic of Turkey eight years later under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk who rose to prominence as a commander at Gallipoli.
The campaign was the first major military action for Australia and New Zealand as independent nations, and the birth of national consciousness in those nations. The date of the landing, 25 April, is known as “Anzac Day” and it remains the most significant commemoration date of military casualties for those countries.
The ultimate aim was to open the Dardenelles Straights to the Allied navies, threaten Constantinople (now Istanbul) and hopefully put Turkey out of the war. The land action started when the attempt to enter the Straights by naval action alone failed. Success for the land campaign depended on speed. It was a risky strategy and one that failed because the Turks fought hard.
Gallipoli soon became similar to the Western Front with Trench warfare being the norm and fighting severe. The proportion of casualties was high and the summer heat led to huge amounts of illness, inedible food and huge swarms of black flies. Conditions became horrific and many died due to illness.
The evacuation and acceptance of failure by the allies began in December and continued into January 1916.
I first visited Gallipoli in 1997 with my then boyfriend (now husband) an expert in WWI and some of his friends. I wasn’t interested in finding all the beaches and trenches as at that time I was pretty disinterested in the details of WWI but thoroughly loved the birds and tortoises that we saw as we wandered about. It was hot even in April and we were there for the ANZAC day commemorations. Never for one moment did I think standing in that ceremony that I would now be interested in WWI history and especially that I would be creating art that tells the stories of these events. What an amazing world we live in full of opportunities and promise for the future.
IN FLANDERS FIELDS
Acrylics metallics and fine glitters 100 x 100cm
The following original painting was created on the site at Essex Farm near Ypres where John McCrae wrote the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ which ultimately led to the adoption of the poppy as the iconic symbol of remembrance that so many countries use to this day. John had become disillusioned following the death of a close friend who he personally had to bury. He wrote the poem and discarded it-it was picked up by someone else sent to the press in Canada where it was ultimately published and the rest is history.
I have also surprisingly for me written some poetry on the same place which is included in my blog-unchanged from the words that flowed from me to pen and then to paper in that calm serene place. An incredible, emotional and amazing experience to paint this piece in the same place that this iconic poem was written in May 1915.
THE BLANKET OF POPPIES – An artwork commemorating the life work and execution of Edith Cavell on 12th October 1915.
The biggest work in 2015 was commemorating the life work and execution of Edith Cavell. Edith was a British nurse who helped hundreds of allied soldiers escape from German occupied Brussels and was executed on the 12th October 1915 for her resistance work. Edith Cavell was born near Norwich, and spent time in Peterborough at a school in the Cathedral Precincts where she learnt fluent French. This meant she was able to work in Brussels (following her nurse training and work in London and other places in England) improving the quality of nursing there before WWI began. Knowing the likely consequence of war she chose to remain in Brussels as she thought she would more than ever be needed. This proved to be true!This colourful blanket includes as its centre piece, Britain and Belgium with quotes and symbolic depictions of her life before and at her execution created by myself in collaboration with Artisan Felter Eve Marshall.The centre piece is surrounded by stunning beaded and embellished hand made poppies, leaves and stems. The poppies were made by 49 women in workshops reminiscent of WWI knitting circles, each poppy representing a year of Edith Cavell’s life. These strong safe places have led to much sharing of stories and healing and care amongst the women taking part with some incredible stories being shared between strangers. A blanket is often used to care and wrap a person in comfort in times of distress. It is a sign of compassion from one person to another. There would have been little comfort for Edith during her confinement and subsequent execution.To me it seemed very appropriate to comfort and wrap the memory of Edith Cavell and her bravery in a blanket 100 years on.The workshops were inspirational and the strength of women working together with a common purpose was truly fabulous. Following national,regional and local publicity on the BBC,ITV, on radio and in newspapers I was humbled by all those who got in touch hoping to take part and the stories they have all told. I hope that those unable to take part will be able to connect and be involved in a work that I am creating to commemorate The Somme- See 1916 page. and my blogs.Other elements of the project included the creation of: words and poetry in collaboration with Keely Mills poet that were read at the events associated with the blanket: and a film detailing the work of the project.
“I have been humbled and honoured by these women, many of whom were drawn to take part through emotional connections known and unknown to the inspirational story of Edith Cavell. I have also been astonished by how many people know nothing about this amazing woman and her bravery from such an iconic period of history. Her story needed to be told”.
The blanket was laid at events to commemorate the life, work and execution of this inspirational woman in WWI around the centenary of her execution on 12th October 1915.
“It was a very intense, special and emotional experience creating art about a woman you feel connected with, having researched her life and travelled to the very places that she walked and worked in England and Brussels before her execution in 1915. Her story is one that every woman should know!”
EDITH CAVELL-HER STORY
Edith Cavell was born near Norwich into a strong Anglican family- she was brought up with strong anglican and victorian ethics. She was educated at one point in a private school in Peterborough Cathedral Precincts before becoming a governess. Around the age of 30 she trained to be a nurse and ultimately was “head hunted’ to take charge of improving nursing in Brussels and Belgium. When the Germans occupied Brussels in WWI she stayed as she felt she could be of greater use there. She became a prominent member of a group that possibly helped up to 1500 allied soldiers and French and Belgium men escape the germans. The group were betrayed and after 10 weeks in solitary captivity were put on trial. Following a guilty verdict for treason her execution was rapidly carried out on 12th October 1915 at 7am.
After her death enormous amounts of successful anti-german propaganda were produced resulting in a doubling of enlistment in next 8 weeks. After the war her body was brought back to England and following a state funeral at Westminster Abbey she was buried outside Norwich Cathedral in her home county.
Peterborough was where Edith learnt fluent french and hence why she was asked to work in Brussels to take charge of a number of nursing clinics . In recent years commemorative links have been lost with the re-naming of the hospital and Queensgate carpark and most people do not know who she is, let alone what she did. The centenary of her execution is an opportunity to revive her inspirational story and links to the city and internationally whilst involving people in a major artwork in her memory!
The following commemoration projects happened in 2016:
THE LONELY ANZAC-A MAN FAR FROM HOME. Brief story
Sargent Thomas Hunter of the 10th Battalion of the 10th Division of the Australian Army died in Peterborough Hospital on the 31st July 1916 after being shot in the spine at Pozieres on the 25th July as part of The Somme Campaign. Having been badly injured he was being transferred to a hospital in the north for treatment when he deteriorated on the train and was bought off the train to Peterborough Hospital now the museum where he died. He is thought to be the first ANZAC to die on British soil during WWI. The people of Peterborough took him to their hearts following his death raising a huge sum of money to have a full civic and military funeral on the 2nd August with a horse drawn hearse through the streets lined with thousands of residents. It was as if all the emotions for their own sons, fathers and husbands had gone into the grieving for this young man so far from home! His ghost is also reputed to haunt the existing museum. I am booked onto a ‘fright night’ at the museum as part of an official ghost hunt tour in April-The crazy life of an artist! He is buried at Broadway Cemetery a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.
The Heritage Lottery Then and Now fund have kindly funded the following project for 1916 through Peterborough City Council.
THE LONELY ANZAC BLANKET
This was the creation of a blanket to commemorate THE LONELY ANZAC that was laid on the war memorial at a service on the 31st July to wrap his memory in the warmth of the people of The City of Peterborough. Please see an image of a rough sketch-the centrepiece is of Peterborough including the museum, the cathedral, his memorial cross and a steam train that bought him to his place of death.
These centrepieces tell his story as THE BLANKET OF POPPIES tells the story of Edith Cavell and her life work and execution. Surrounding the centrepiece are poppies of remembrance with leaves and flags of some of the countries involved in WWI created by people from all different communities/countries in commemoration of this man so far from home! The bringing together of people in the Edith Cavell workshops was incredibly powerful for those involved, changing some of their lives and sharing stories with each other. This was an incredibly important part of the process and a huge amount of effort and focus goes into making this amazing for each participant.
Each workshop also tells the story and more about Peterborough in WWI.
The blanket was also be present at The Heritage Festival in 2016 with further opportunity to inform and learn and other events associated with The Somme.
THE QUEENSGATE SKY OF POPPIES Commissioned by Queensgate Shopping Centre Peterborough.
The Sky of Poppies – Raindrop poppies – the heaven’s open, raindrops are falling…
“This installation will be a visitor experience within North Square – the visitors will walk and see lots of poppies falling from the “sky” as if they were the souls of those lost looking and reaching out from heaven like raindrops and touching each visitor – signifying the connection that each and every person that was lost had on every person’s life who is still living now. Poppies are about life although being the iconic symbol of remembrance that we know so well and the installation will look more deeply beyond the deaths of so many men to hopefully include how the women lived on without their sons, husbands and fathers.The poppies also represent raindrops that will always fall despite the actions of man over historical time falling into pools of rainwater. Rain of course led to the swathes of mud so synonymous with the Somme.”
Over 1000 poppies were individually handcrafted throughout the run up to the installation and included workshops with Charron Pugsley-Hill and collaborating Artisan Felter, Eve Marshall, to learn a new creative skill and engage with the project. The aim of these workshops was to ensure a broad spectrum of participants and contributors to represent the global connection of the battle in the current day.
Each poppy will represent over 1000 casualties on The Somme – over a million casualties from all nationalities combined!
At the beginning of the Battle of the Somme there were military miners that created a series of craters when mining underground and laying explosives underneath the German positions. One of the largest craters is the Lochnagar crater – the largest crater ever made by man. It is almost 91m in diameter and 21m deep. It is now a poignant place of remembrance privately owned by a Briton to remember all people who suffered and lost lives in the war. It has been stated that the sound and feel of the explosions in these craters could be heard in London. Hence the possible inclusion of shells within the piece!
This work was as much about engaging people in the process through creating poppies, the stories, the multicultural connection and family history as it was about the actual installation itself. This was an amazing opportunity to engage people in an experience of art within Queensgate’s centre. Previous work on Edith Cavell had shown the immense value of including people in this type of project – their involvement has been life changing for many!
The names of all those who died at The Somme from Peterborough were listed around the square with the ethereal poppies hanging from above. This installation opened on 6th July 2016 with an emotional ceremony involving many ex-veterans and remained in place until mid November.4.5 million visitors walked under the installation whilst it was in place with huge numbers of positive comments on Social media.
Dada was an artistic and literary movement that began Switzerland in 1916. It arose as a reaction to World War I and the nationalism that many thought had led to the war. Irreverence was important in Dada art, whether a lack of respect for bourgeois convention, government authorities, conventional production methods, or more traditional art of the time.Dada art was usually unplanned without much preparatory work, often incorporated everyday items and humour and irony. Irony also gave the artists flexibility and expressed their embrace of the craziness of the world stopping them from taking themselves or their work too seriously or from getting caught up in excessive enthusiasm or dreams of utopia. I did not have time to create something in the dadist sale in 2016 but I still hope to do something before the end of the series.
Artist-in-Residence Somme Centenary Weekend.
I also visited the Somme in April for research and then again over the centenary where I was hosted by The Great War Society. This residency included the capture of many photographic images and also the creation of THE FLOWERS OF THE SOMME-inspired by the flowers of the land and those present in the cemeteries over the centenary weekend.
THE FLOWERS OF THE SOMME Original Painting in acrylics, metallics and fine glitters
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THE BATTLE OF PASSCHAENDAELE
1917 saw one of the most iconic battles of World War I at Passchendaele (English spelling ) or Passendale the name now used by the Belgiums today. This battle saw Â 275,000 men under British command and 220,000 Germans lose their lives in the mud of Flanders with 18,000 bodies believed still to be held in the soils of this land.
In the latest of my series of art commemorating the battle of Passendale that began on the 31st July 1917 until November the same year Â I retraced the steps of those men over the land that saw so many die in terrible circumstances in Passendale and the surrounding area. Immersing myself in the place where the events actually occurred allows for total focus on the energies and memories of the land whilst creating the art that will commemorate the event and the people who were there 100 years ago. Passendale has a strong energy that flows through the woods, ridges and fields still today. As you walk you can see the physical evidence still with shrapnel balls, pieces of metal and all manner of things including the characteristics of the land such as young trees where we saw the iconic images of blackened tree stumps where the trees had also been blown to bits by the millions upon millions of shells fired over the years of the war.
Passendale was the third battle of the Ypres Salient ( a bulge in the frontline around the town of Ypres where shelling could occur from 3 sides..) but was the most dreadful of them all if that is possible….Stalemate, mud Â and the scale of the casualties were the common themes of this battle where men and horses drowned in the thick deep gooey mud if they deviated from the tracks and paths that tracked across the area “you needed to watch the colour of the water that lay everywhere-you looked for the light colour and avoided the darker where one step would lead to your death”.
Paintings here take on a relevance and an energy of there own as I captured the emotions and energies emanating from the land and the people as they repeat the stories of their forebears who lived and experienced the time of conflict in their homeland.
Each painting is created over the week that I am there with visits and research in between working in the mornings and evenings..
I am thankful and grateful for the inspiration that the trip gave me to create this painting…in my view possible one of the most significant of those I have created as part of my series commemorating the people, places and events of WWI….. the toughest to create by far!!!
For more of my work on this series and for more information on this painting check out the rest of my WWI blogs on my website www.charronpugsleyhill.com
THE LAMENT OF WOMEN
THE LAMENT OF WOMEN is the latest in my series of art commemorating the people, places and events of WWI a hundred years on. This painting is 60 x 60cm in acrylics, metallics and fine glitters on canvas.
In 2016 I was incredibly privileged to meet a lady aged 101 who participated in making a poppy for the Installation THE SKY OF POPPIES that was created to commemorate the Battle of the Somme in 1916. Her husband who was 18 years older than her, was gassed at the Somme and died of the consequences after the war but prematurely due to the affects of the gas. She had been without him for many years and we were both in tears as she told me about him. Ever since I have thought of the way women responded to losing so many of the men in their lives during that horrific war. Fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, husbands, friends, men lost to those who loved them….
The lament of women haunted by their eyes
The fatality of their men a generation gone
Fathers, sons, husbands, a brother so many taken ahead of time
leaving broken hearts behind as futures brutally ripped apart
sorrowful hearts left with no solace, a lifetime of lost love
Too many hearts anguished forever with remembrance only and no man to behold.
THE CONSCRIPT is an original painting created to commemorate the millions of horses that died in WWI as well as those taken from civilian life to war. This original painting 100 x 100 x 4cm on canvas in acrylics, metallics and fine glitters is part of my series of work commemorating people, places and events of WWI A hundred years on. This painting adds the contribution made by horses to the war effort. As a lover and rider of horses from a young age I cannot imagine the trauma of a beloved horse being taken away to be apart of the war machine! Ponies were not generally taken due to the concern for children worried about their pets should they be taken to the war.
Over 8 million horses are believed to have died on all sides in WWI. A huge number of animals taken from civilian life, most ripped from the families that loved them to the horrors of the battlefield. Some had already been military horses and were experienced in the so called glory of the military charge made famous by the charge of the light brigade.
The story of the war horse is now fairly well known thanks to the book, film and stage show War Horse by Michael Morpurgo and I hope that my painting will touch the hearts of the viewer to think about the horrors faced in the years of war by so many horses most of whom would never have experienced anything like the time they spent on the frontline.
Horses and countless mules and donkeys were used mostly for transport of food, munitions, injured men and equipment throughout the war. Millions died from battle wounds from shellfire and guns but most died from the dreadful conditions, lack of food and weather.
The value of horses was such that by 1917 at The Battle of Passchendaele many units were told that the loss of a horse was far worse than the loss of a man because they were more difficult to replace. Men were assigned to care for the horses and there are many images of distressed soldiers with the body of their horse in their arms. The distress of the horses must have been a terrible thing for the soldiers caring for them, their death even worse!!
So this is the final centenary year or is it? Although this is the final official year of WWI there were many events in the years following including repatriation and rebuilding and who knows if these will inspire me to greater things.
As my largest project to date in this theme I am planning a large installation in partnership with Peterbororugh City Council and sponsors and hopefully grant funding to commemorate the 1177 men from Peterborough who died as a result of WWI. More details to come soon…. Potential soonsors please get in touch…
Also in 2018 I may be creating paintings and installations around some the following areas:
The Russian Revolution and the ending of their involvement in WWI
The formation of the RAF on the 1st April
The death of the Red Baron
The involvement of the Americans
The murder of Czar Nicholas and his family
The signing of the Armistice in a railway carrierge at Compiegne on the 11th day of the 11th month on the 11th hour.
The sparing of 28 German soldiers on 28 September by War hero Henry Tandy. This story was told by Adolf Hitler who claimed to be one of these soldiers to Neville Chamberlain years later.
I usually write blogs for each of the projects that I undertake so please keep an eye on these for more details as 2018 progresses.
My dream this year is also to hold a high profile fundraising auction/event to raise money for a military charity by selling off the work I have created over the last few years to commemorate the people places and events of WWI.
It feels quite strange writing this for what is potentially the last year of my WWI work. I cannot imagine not creating more work on this theme right now but all good things come to an end. Something else will happen and a new direction will open up……..But heres to a great 2018 full of new stories and new things….