Friday, July 01, 2016

Sketches from The Battle of The Somme

Today is the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme in which over a million people from 50 countries died in five months during the First World War.

On the First Day of the Somme:
  • the British Fourth Army had 57,470 casualties, of whom 19,240 men were killed. 
  • The French had 1,590 casualties and 
  • the German 2nd Army lost 10,000–12,000 men.

This is about the way the battle was recorded at the time by those who drew - officially and otherwise - and the conditions that they found while they were there.
With the French and British armies calling upon troops from the colonies and the French Foreign Legion, units from 25 nations and 50 countries were involved in the Battle of the Somme. In five months of combat, the total number of men killed, wounded and missing reached over one million and entire nations were sent into mourning. Casualties amounted to 420,000 for the British, 190,000 for the French and 420,000 for the Germans. The landscape of the north-east of the Somme was completely devastated; villages were razed to the ground and fields were turned into lunar-landscapes by shelling.

Drawings of the Somme Battle and its aftermath

Those who drew varied. Some were or became famous. Others are little known. I'm guessing there are probably a fair few sketchbooks which never made it into official archives.

Those drawing the Somme include:
  • Muirhead Bone (1876-1953)- the first official war artist. He became an active member of the War Artists' Advisory Committee in the Second World War. Bone was a draughtsman and etcher who had studied art in the evenings at the Glasgow School of Art and was a member of the New English Art Club.
  • E H Shepard (1879-1976) - who subsequently provided illustrations for Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows
  • George Hoffman Spencer - an architect and artist whose estate bequeathed his sketchbook to the Imperial War Museum. It contains some 150 drawings. 
  • Captain Robert Mauchlen (1885-1972) drew a series of sketches during the war, including several during the Battle of the Somme.
  • J.B Morrall - A sketchbook of Morrall's drawings was sent in by Mrs Morrall (unclear whether this is the artist's wife or mother), and the Imperial War Museum purchased five of them
The war artist Lieutenant Muirhead Bone crossing a muddy road, Maricourt, September 1916
Imperial War Museum Collections |© IWM (Q 1464)
Commissioned as an honorary second lieutenant, Bone served as a war artist with the Allied forces on the Western Front and also with the Royal Navy for a time. He arrived in France on 16 August 1916, during the Battle of the Somme and produced 150 drawings of the war before returning to England in October 1916. Wikipedia

George Spencer Hoffman drew the soldiers who were exhausted or wounded and killed in the battle.
Vignettes of soldiers on the Somme July 2016
First World War Sketchbook Volume 1 - Salvage, Somme, July 1916
George Spencer Hoffman (1875-1950)
Imperial War Museum Archive

EH Shepherd MC OBE (1879-1976) sketched his dugout in watercolour and the combat area around where he served.
Though in his mid-thirties when World War I broke out in 1914, Shepard received a commission as a second lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Artillery, an arm of the Royal Artillery. By 1916, Shepard started working for the Intelligence Department sketching the combat area within the view of his battery position. On 16 February 1917, he was made an acting captain whilst second-in-command of a siege battery, and briefly served as an acting major in late April and early May of that year, when he reverted to the acting rank of captain. He was promoted to lieutenant on 1 July 1917. Whilst acting as Captain, he was awarded the Military Cross for his service at the Battle of Passchendaele. Wikipedia
Our BC post copse B, near Maricourt Somme August 1916 E H Shepard Lieut.
pencil and watercolour wash, 257mm c 180mm
Imperial War Museum | Gift of Mrs E H Shepard, 1976

You can see more of EH Shepard's watercolour sketches from the First World War on the Imperial War Museum's website.
“Shepard went out to the Somme in June or July, and his brother, who he was close to, followed a couple of days later,” says curator Olivia Ahmad. “But he was killed almost instantly. When Shepard found out, he went to find his grave. He took a map with him and drew a tiny cross marking the co-ordinates where his brother was buried. All of the other maps he had were working documents, so they’re a bit tatty, but this one is pristine, with just this one tiny notation,” she adds.E.H. Shepard: An Illustrator’s War | Creative Review
Some were adept at sketching soldiers in  action. This is a very impressive sketch by Captain Robert Mauchlen MC (1885-1972)

Sketch of the attack on the Butte de Warlencourt on 5 November 1916
by Captain Robert Mauchlen MC (1885-1972)
Sketchbook in the Battle of the Somme archives of Durham County Record Office
The Butte de Warlencourt is an ancient burial mound off the Albert–Bapaume road, north-east of Le Sars in the Somme département of northern France. .....The Germans constructed deep dugouts throughout the Butte and surrounded it by several belts of barbed wire, making it a formidable defensive position in advance of Gallwitz Riegel (the Gird Trenches). After the Battle of Flers–Courcelette (15–22 September) the view from the Butte dominated the new British front line and was used by the Germans for artillery observation. During the Battle of Le Transloy (1–20 October), part of the Battle of the Somme, the Butte de Warlencourt was the subject of several attacks by the British Fourth Army, which were costly failures; attacks in November also failed. Wikipedia
The artillery shelling reduced everything to nothing. This is an article about How War Artist Muirhead Bone Recorded The Battle of The Somme

An Artillery Barrage on the Somme Battlefield:
Mametz Wood, Contalmaison Château, Fricourt Wood and Delville Wood in the distance.

Drawn from King's Hill, Fricourt, September, 1916
Muirhead Bone
pencil and wash 330mm x 501mm
Imperial War Museum Collection | Art.IWM ART 2098

Villages, trees and people were all obliterated - and the artists continued to sketch and record.

Contalmaison was a village which was a target on the very first day - on 1st July 2016
Contalmaison can be found about three miles north-east of Albert and around half a mile south of Pozieres, on the southern side of the main D929 road. The village was an objective for the 34th Division on the 1st of July 1916, but it took many more days of hard fighting before the 8th and 9th Green Howards of the 23rd Division were able to take it at 4.30 p.m. on the 10th of July.
World War One Battlefields
Contalmaison in 1916 : the remains of the village
J. B. Morrall
watercolour on paper, 203 mm  x 304mm
Imperial War Museum Collection | © IWM (Art.IWM ART 205)
a view across the devastated village of Contalmaison, which has been reduced to piles of rubble and tree stumps, with only a single recognisable building visible.
'The abomination of desolation'
Mametz Wood: after the autumn advance, 1916. 
J. B. Morrall
watercolour on paper, 228 mm  x 286 mm
Imperial War Museum Collection | © IWM (Art.IWM ART 202)
a view across the devastated Mametz Wood, with splintered tree stumps and flooded shell holes. The body of a dead German infantryman lies in the foreground, the legs visible but the torso and head hidden by the water of a flooded shell hole. 

Then the wounded were brought home - first embarking on the ships. This is a lithograph by Muirhead Bone of the embarkation of the wounded which would have been based on sketchbook studies at the time. Muirhead Bone created a portfolio of 60 prints at the end of the war based on studies made while working as a war artist.

War Drawings By Muirhead Bone: Taking the Wounded
lithograph on paper; 505mm x 378mm

Then they return home via London.

This is the view I have of Charing Cross Station every time I return home from a visit to the National Gallery or National Portrait Gallery. It's therefore especially poignant to realise the function the station also played in bringing home the wounded from the Battle of the Somme. (The painting below was painted the year after the war finished.)
A view of the exterior of Charing Cross railway station. The Strand is lined with crowds of civilians watching Red Cross ambulances leaving the station.
Outside Charing Cross Station, July 1916.
Casualties from the Battle of the Somme arriving in London
J Hobson Lobley 1919
oil on vanvas, 2057mm x 3073mm
Imperial War Museum Collection
© IWM (Art.IWM ART 2759)

There's something very special about recording an event which you witnessed.

There's also something very special about maintaining an archive - and then sharing it and allowing others to share so that others can see what went before....

See also

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Wildlife Artist of the Year - The Exhibition

Yesterday I wrote about the people who won the awards at the Wildlife Artist of the Year Exhibition - at the Mall Galleries until 4pm on Saturday.  (see Wildlife Artist of the Year 2016 - The Awards).

Today it's the turn of the people whose artwork caught my eye.

Plus I have a video of the exhibition - which you can see below and on my Making A Mark Channel on YouTube (

So whose work caught my eye - apart from the award winners?

The exhibition starts strong - these are the first pieces you see as you enter. (I'm going to add in credits - but am rushing off out to an exhibition this morning so will do it later today)

Wildlife Artist of the Year 2016 Exhibition - entrance to the Main Gallery
The exhibition for the competition is split in two - one side (the Main Gallery) has all the colour - and it is very colourful......

A really colourful wall below the bookshop
.....and the Threadneedle Space has the monochrome pieces. 

I thought that visually it worked extremely well.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Wildlife Artist of the Year 2016 - The Awards

The Wildlife Artist of the Year 2016 Exhibition opened today at the Mall Galleries. I was there last night for the preview and to see the awards being made. Below you can find out who became Artist of the year and also see the which artwork won in each category.

Artwork in the exhibition
It's an excellent exhibition with many outstanding works of art. For all lovers of wildlife art it's definitely an exhibition to visit. 

50% of the sales of all works of art also goes to the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation's wildlife conservation projects across Africa and Asia. This is the ninth show and to date it has raised over £320,000 to help protect endangered wildlife.

I've got a video and would also like to highlight some of the other works in the show so I'll post again later this week.

The exhibition is open 10am to 5pm (and 4pm on the last day - which is Saturday 2nd July.

A view of the exhibition in the main gallery
If you can't get to the exhibition you can still view images of the artwork in the exhibition online.

Wildlife Artist of the Year

Wildlife Artist of the Year 2016  (£10,000)

Sponsored by Mr & Mrs Covey

Ribbon Eel by Umberto (Cher, France)
Wonderfully sensuous with the great weight of the bronze contrasting with the lightness of form – its beautifully smooth texture creates a very modern and original evocation of wildlife art.
Umberto is an award-winning sculptor. He started out as a model maker for commercial art. However once he started working using a foundry for his work, it became more figurative and about nature and wildlife. He now has a workshop where he has worked as a professional sculptor for the last 13 years.

Umberto with David Shepherd at the Awards Ceremony

Runner up 

£1,000 and an artist residency for a week at Nature in Art, Gloucestershire.
Sponsored by Simon Trapnell 

Runner Up: Fading Giant by Stefano Zagaglia (Milan, Italy)
It is the essence of everything that DSWF works to protect in painted form. No words are required as visually it says something grand is disintegrating in front of our eyes – the white space is all that we will be left with.
Stefano was also selected for the Wildlife Artist of the Year exhibition in 2015.

Category winners:

The Category winners each receive £500 and a Certificate

Animal Behaviour 

- a real understanding of animal behaviour and a sense of character.

Category Winner: Game Face On by Warren Cary ( Hoedspruit , South Africa)
A beautiful, strong interpretation of an iconic and powerful species left in the wild today. It’s refreshing to see an individual style of precision, power and eloquence.
 The Threadneedle Space houses all the work which is monochrome and is where this work is situated.

Earth’s Beautiful Creatures 

– the judges were looking for not only beautifully executed original artworks but also imaginative interpretation, moving away from the purely photographic to compositions with great characterisation , showing imagination, originality and genuine creativity.
Sponsored by Gary Hodges

Category Winner: Maribou Portrait by Alan Woollett ( Maidstone , Kent)
(coloured pencil on Fabriano Artistico) 
Not one of nature’s beauties but this strong head depicts the warts and all and contrasts with the softness of the pelage (body feathers)
Not the prettiest bird in the room - but very striking and caught my eye from the other side of the room.

Alan at the Awards Ceremony - he had no idea he's won his category!

Hidden World 

- the judges wanted to see a celebration of remote and rarely observed or lesser known landscapes and species
presented in memory of Derek Francis 

Monday, June 27, 2016

Brexit #1: What does it mean for UK and EU Art Students and Schools?

There is no certainty right now about Brexit means for art and artists. This is a first in a series of articles commenting (hopefully in an intelligent and factual way!) on what Brexit might mean for different aspects of Art and Artists.

This first article focuses on art students and those wishing to take fine art degrees, short courses, workshops, classes etc in terms of:
  • EU students wanting to study in the UK
  • UK students wanting to study in the EU.
Plus it also comments on some of the implications for art schools and other educational establishments.

I'm trying here to indicate a framework for how things might work going forward.  I'd be very happy to add into this post any information or comments from people with relevant experience or expertise. 

Darwin Building, Royal College of Art in London, spring 2013
Royal College of Art - for postgraduate study

What happens now?

In the short term, nothing changes immediately - apart from on the financial markets. 

When Article 50 is invoked and the negotiations begin it should become clearer what happens next. Two years are allowed to conclude them.  I'll update this post and/or write a new one as and when any changes are announced

However the major question is if and when Article 50 is invoked - and how the various parties behave towards one another as negotiations proceed.

Hopefully at some point everybody will stop running round like headless chickens and calm down and get on with whatever needs to be done for the best interests of all concerned.

You can be certain during negotiations there will lobbying for special exemptions and deals for specific circumstances. However what those will be and what happens will depend as much on the attitude and tone struck by EU Members and Politicians.

In terms of art students it's much easier to say what's likely to happen in future with respect to EU students coming to the UK than what the EU might decide with respect to UK students wanting to study at an approved educational institution in the EU. It's probably going to be similar - but there are no certainties.

What it means for Art Students

The University of Arts, London issued advice to their students the day before the referendum - What does a Brexit mean for UAL students?  (Its students actually come from over 140 countries from around the globe).

Study Visas to come to the UK

Glasgow School of Art 52
Glasgow School of Art
- the Mackintosh Building
At present you don't need a visa to come to the UK to study if you normally reside within the EU.
If you are a student from a country outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland, and not already living in the UK, you need a visa to study in the UK.
University of the Arts, London
However if and when the UK leaves the EU this will very likely change for all students who are EU Nationals.
There will an end of unrestricted free movement. | Douglas Carswell - interviewed on the BBC 27 June 2016
However education might be an area where a special deal is done given the high education sector's dependence on fees from overseas students. This is an aspect to keep an eye on.

I make no predictions but I'd expect some heavy lobbying from the educational institutions on this one.
Every year, universities generate over £73 billion for the UK economy – £3.7bn of which is generated by students from EU countries | EU referendum: An open letter to UK voters from leaders of 103 British universities
After the Exit has been agreed, it's reasonable to expect that all EU nationals wanting to come to the UK to study art will be subject to the same terms and conditions as nationals from any other country.

If visas are required in future, the type of visa will depend on what sort of study is involved. Links below are to Visa Information from the Government.

There are currently two types of Student Visas for people who want to come to the UK for study purposes
  • Tier 4 (General) visa
  • Short-term Study visa
Somebody coming as an academic visitor needs a You need a Standard Visitor visa.

Tier 4 Visa

At present you can apply for a Tier 4 (General) Visa if you are a non-EU national.  There are various conditions.  They key conditions are that:
  • there is a limit on the amount of time you can spend in the UK on this type of visa.
  • it only relates to educational organisations which hold a Tier 4 licence - which means if they lose their licence you lose your visa unless you can find another sponsor
This is for students aged 16 years or over who are coming to UAL to study:
  • A full-time degree or degree-level course (e.g. BA, MA, PhD);
  • A further education course (e.g. Foundation Diploma);
  • A pre-sessional course;
  • An English language course (at level B2 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).

Short-term Study Visa

Short term Study Visas are for people wanting to do a short course of study in the UK
What you can and can’t do
You can:
  • do a short course of study in the UK, such as an English language course or a training course
  • do a short period of research as part of a degree course if you are studying abroad
You can’t:
  • study at a state school
  • work (including on a work placement or work experience) or carry out any business
  • extend this visa
  • bring family members (‘dependants’) with you - they must apply separately
  • get public funds

Three year courses and a two year exit period

I expect higher education establishments will be in a quandary about offering places for the next academic year for three year courses as these will extend beyond the two years allocated for completely exit negotiations.

My guess - and I emphasise this is a guess - is that
  • they will lobby hard for some transitional arrangements for students who 
    • started their academic studies this year - but will not complete in the two years after Article 50 is invoked.
    • start to study after the vote and before the Exit.
  • they will provide lots of information and advice to students as to the requirements for visas if the UK exits the EU within the 2 year period or by the end of it.  
Bear in mind that it very much appears that in relation to being a student in the UK the worst it can be (on the basis of current arrangements) is exactly the same as it is for other non-EU nationals at present.

Exchange arrangements

There may also be issues in relation to any exchange arrangements with academic institutions in the EU - and vice versa.

I think this is very much a 'wait and see'. The chances are is it might require more paperwork.

After your study course finishes

The major difference will come after EU or UK students have finished your studies. 

If freedom of movement between EU and the UK becomes restricted then there will be:

  • no right to remain after your studies, 
  • no right to work and 
  • no right to live in the UK. 
All of these activities will require a visa.

Although nobody can be certain, it's very likely that a work visa will only be issued according to the points-based system which currently relates to non-EU nationals. Visas are only issued to specific classes of people.

Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa

International Art Competitions
may become more important
One class is "Exceptional Talent". This is the full guidance on UK Visas and Immigration's policy on visa applications under Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) - Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) policy guidance PDF, 559KB, 49 pages.

Interestingly I was asked last year to provide an endorsement for an artist who wanted to apply under this class (after I had highlighted the individual on this blog). I referred him on to an organisation I thought might well provide an endorsement with more weight.

It does however highlight how important international art competitions and art prizes might become in indicating exceptional talent.

What it means for Art Schools 

If they haven't done so already, it's very likely that all art schools and other establishments (of whatever size) offering study courses will need to become accredited as an institution which is "recognised" as a "proper" educational organisation.

(There's been all sorts of shocking examples of establishments masquerading as study centres in the past - hence the rigour re becoming accredited and the removal of Tier 4 accreditation on occasion).

Specifically that means that
  • art schools in this country need to meet visa requirements for students (if they don't already)
  • art schools in the EU will need to do likewise re whatever visa arrangements they have in place for non-EU students. (Anybody know what those are?)

Sunday, June 26, 2016

BP Portrait Award 2016 - Artists with their paintings

The BP Portrait Award over the years has developed an increasingly international dimension.  On Wednesday I was delighted to meet and photograph a number of the artists - with the portraits they painted for the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

Click the images to see a LARGER VERSION.

You can also view the websites of more of the artists selected for this year's exhibition plus a and a short summary of their CV via my earlier post BP Portrait Award 2016: Selected Artists.  The link to their website is embedded in their names. The names are organised by the country where they live at present (when available).

I'll also be doing more posts about the exhibition. Upcoming posts will include:
  • The Best of the Rest - my choice of my top 10 paintings (excluding the prizewinners)
  • A Video Interview with Clara Drummond
  • A Video Interview with Benjamin Sullivan
  • A review of the exhibition - including a video tour of the exhibition sone after the awards Ceremony last Tuesday.
  • The BP Travel Award

The Painters

The painters in this post are: Alexander Chamberlin;  Sopio Chkhikvadze; Thomas Dobre; Thomas Ehretsmann; Samantha Fellows; Jane Gardiner Fiona Graham-McKay; Eilis Otway; Teri Anne Scoble; Daisy Sims-Hilditch; David von Bassewitz ; Simon Richardson; Shany van den Berg


Alexander Chamberlin (b.1972)

James Rhodes by Alexander Chamberlin
Oil on Canvas, 500 x 400mm (January 2016)
Alexander Chamberlin is a London based figurative oil painter - painting landscapes, portraits, still life and flowers. He grew up near Earls Court and has a studio located on the western edge of Chelsea. He's always loved to paint,  has a BA (Hons) degree from Newcastle University and he's has had work in numerous exhibitions in London and in numerous group exhibitions including those of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters and the Chelsea Art Society. (This is his Facebook Page)

He paints portraits from life on location or in his studio. His portrait is of his brother-in-law James Rhodes who is a British classical concert pianist who has made classical music much more accessible the informal presentation of his performances and campaigning for music tuition for school children. He's also well known for his international bestselling memoir, Instrumental (2014) - which he was originally prevented from publishing due to a gagging order but the Supreme Court ruled otherwise in what was seen as a major legal judgement relating to free speech and an endorsement of the right of survivors to tell their stories

Alexander pointed out to me that he painted it for his sister Hattie and James as a wedding present - but so far they haven't actually received it and now won't get it for nearly a year!
What's interesting about the painting is it looks unfinished (note the right hand side) and yet the bright splash of orange means it works better as a painting.

Note for those hoping to get their work into this exhibition. Alexander had previously produced large paintings and not had his work accepted. This year he decided to go much smaller - in a year in which the exhibition has lots more small paintings.

Sopio Chkhikvadze (b. 1972)

This one is a bit different as I came across her model at the show but not Sopio! The portrait is of the photographer, Martin Chaffer who is also a Past Chair of the Social of Fulham Artists and Potters. The map of London was added to provide an interesting visual context.

Born in Tbilisi, Georgia and lives in London. Sopio studied art at Tbilisi Nikoladze Art College  and Tbilisi State Academy of Art, Georgia. Her work has been seen in exhibitions in Tiblisi, Prague and Moscow and those of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters and the Royal Society of British Artists. She won the Michael Harding Award at the RBA Annual Exhibition 2016. I saw one of her paintings at this show and found it interesting.

Portrait Of Martin Chaffer by Sopio Chkhikvadze (B.1972)
oil on canvas

Samantha Fellows (b.1971)

Samantha is a scenic artist who has worked as head artist for many UK leading set designers, painting scenery for numerous theatre and television productions. She paints portraits, mostly of children, in oil on birch plywood panels. Interestingly although British she studied art and gained a BA (Hons) degree in fine art at Oregon State University.

She had work in both the RBSA Portrait Prize Exhibition and the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Women Artists (both 2015).

Samantha Fellows with her daughter Pearl and her portrait
Pearl In The Morning, Ready For School 
oil on panel
‘I was struck by Pearl’s look of very slight apprehension. She also possesses a certain teenage bravado that I also hoped to capture.’
Pearl only got the morning off the Press Preview - she was back at school in the afternoon!

The painting of her daughter is part of a series of paintings of both daughters. Samantha is having a good year this year. If you visit her Facebook Page you can see her portrait of her other daughter Rose hanging in the Royal Academy of Art's Summer Exhibition. That one (Rose's School Picture) has sold!
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