Sunday, November 15, 2020

Tom Purvis (1888-1959) – British artist known as the ‘King of the Hoardings.

Tom was born in Bristol, the son of sailor and marine artist and sea Captain Thomas George Purvis.   Tom studied art at the Camberwell School of Art for three years after winning scholarships and went on to study under Degas and Walter Sickert.

He produced art work for the advertising agency Mather & Crowther and spent six years learning the art of advertising, followed by two years at the Avenue Press, where he mastered the practical side of lithographic printing. Tom's first independent poster was produced for Dewar’s Whisky in 1907 when he was 19. 

During the First World War, Tom served as a Captain in the Artist’s Rifles Regiment and went on to design covers for London Magazine and Passing Show and much other advertising artwork.


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

A sketch by John McCrae (1872 – 1918) Canadian poet, writer, artist, army officer and physician

I am very grateful to Tammy of the Guelph Museums for her help in finding artwork by John McCrae

John McCrae, who was born on 30th November 1872 in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. was the second son of David McCrae, a woollen manufacturer, and Janet Simpson Eckford. 

He became an officer in the Canadian Royal Artillery and served in the Second Boer War in South Africa, as well as in the First World War on the Western front.  

John, who was among the first of the Canadian contingent to go to France, died on 28th January 1918 in Boulogne, France, held the rank of Major and Brigade Surgeon (he was also unofficially second in command) of the 1st Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery, in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. 

In June 1915 John McCrae left the artillery brigade to become Lieutenant-Colonel in charge of medicine at No.3 Canadian General Hospital, an army hospital in France, staffed by friends and colleagues from his Alma Mater McGill University. On 24th Jannuary 1918, John was appointed consulting physician to the 1st British army - the first Canadian to be so honoured. He did not live to appreciate the distinction because he died four days later of pneumonia and meningitis. He was buried with full military honours in the cemetery at Wimereux, France. 

As I am sure you all know, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s famous poem “In Flanders Fields” was the inspiration behind the use of the red poppy as a universal symbol of remembrance.

Here are links to further examples of his art work in their collection sent to me by the Guelph Museum

"Trenches on the Somme by Canadian artist
Mary Riter Hamilton

"In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row, 

That mark our place, and in the sky, 

The larks, still bravely singing, fly, 

Scarce heard amid the guns below. 

We are the dead; short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields. 

Take up our quarrel with the foe! 

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high! 

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

John Laviers Wheatley ARA (1892 – 1955) - British artist, art teacher and museum director

John was born on 23rd January 1892.  He studied art and was taught by Stanhope Forbes and Walter Sickert before going on to study at the Slade School of Art.  

John served in the Artists' Rifles during the First World War and later was designated an official war artist. The British War Memorials Committee appointed John to record the work of the Royal Navy in British home ports. 

He served as a war artist in both World Wars. 

After the end of WW1, John went to South Africa to become Director of the National Gallery and was a Professor at the University of Cape Town. John returned to Britain in 1937 and became Director of the City Art Galleries, Sheffield, and later became Curator of the National Gallery of British Sports and Pastimes.

A  portrait of WW1 soldier poet Edward Thomas, with whom John served in the Artists Rifles.

Divers at Work Repairing a Torpedoed Ship (1918) (Art.IWM ART 2245)
by John Laviers Wheatley

Horace Pippin (1888 - 1946) - American artist

Horace Pippin (February 22, 1888 – July 6, 1946) was a self-taught American artist who painted a range of themes, including scenes inspired by his service in WW1, landscapes, portraits and biblical subjects. 

During the First World War, Horace served in K Company, the 3rd Battalion of the 369th infantry regiment, known because of their bravery in battle as the famous Harlem Hellfighters.  They were transferred to the command of the French Army and were the longest serving U.S. regiment during the conflict. The entire Regiment was awarded the French Croix de Guerre. 

In September 1918, Horace was shot in the right shoulder by a German sniper.  The injury initially cost him the use of his arm and always limited his range of motion. He was honorably discharged in 1919 and was retroactively awarded a Purple Heart for his combat injury in 1945.

Taling about his war-time experiences, Horace said “I did not care what or where I went. I asked God to help me, and he did so. And that is the way I came through that terrible and Hellish place. For the whole entire battlefield was hell, so it was no place for any human being to be.”

After the war, Horace created four memoirs - one of which he illustrated - describing the horrors of his military service. He returned to war subjects periodically throughout the 1930s and 1940s, and later said that WWI "brought out all the art in me".

With thanks to my dear friend Margaret for bringing Horace Pippin to my attention 


"The Ending of the War" by Horace Pippin

Paintings:  Self portrait; Three Soldiers on March and The Ending of the War by Horace Pippin


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Henry Lionel Field (1894 – 1916) – British soldier poet and artist

Quite a few of the WW1 poets were also artists.

Henry was born on 2nd May 1894. Educated at Marlborough College, he went on to study art at Birmingham School of Art.  He joined the 6th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as a Second Lieutenant in September 1914 and was sent to the Western Front in February 1916.

Hentry was killed on the first day of the Somme Offensive Р1st July 1916 Рand is buried in Serre Road Cemetery No. 2, Beaumont Hamel et H̩buterne, Somme, Nord Pas de Calais, France.

His poetry collection “Poems and Drawings” was published by Cornish, Birningham in 1917.  One of his poems was included in the anthology “The Valiant Muse”, edited by F.W. Ziv and published by Putnam, New York, in 1936.

Henry Lionel Field featured in the exhibition “Poets, Writers and Artists on The Somme, 1916”, held at The Wilfred Owen Story in Birkenhead, Wirral in 2016.  There is a book of the exhibition panels available via Amazon:

A sketch from Lionel's book:

William Robert Gregory, MC (1881 - 1918) – Irish airman, cricketer and artist

With thanks to Poet and Historian Becky Bishop for finding this artist

William Robert Gregory, known as Robert, was born on 21st May 1881 in Athenry, County Galway, Ireland.  He was the only child of Sir William Henry Gregory and Lady Gregory, a poet and writer and associate of Irish poet W. B. Yeats.   Educated at Harrow, Oxford University and the Slade School of Art, London, Robert was an excellent all-round sportsman, good at bowls, boxing, horse riding and cricket. He once played for the Ireland Cricket Team. 

Robert married fellow Slade School of Art student, Margaret Parry and worked in Paris at the design studio of Jacques Émile Blanche. An exhibition of his work was held in Chelsea, London in 1914. He was also a book illustrator.

In 1915, in spite of being married with three children by then, Robert initially joined the 4th Connaught Rangers, but in 1916 transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, where he trained as a fighter pilot and joined 40 Squadron.  As a fighter pilot, Robert was credited with eight victories, which gave him ace status. The French awarded him their Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur in 1917 and he was awarded a Military Cross for "conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty."

Robert flew the following planes: Royal Aircraft Factory RE-8, the French Nieuport and, at the time of his death, the Sopwith Camel.   Robert was killed serving on the Italian Front at Monastiero, Padua, Italy on 23rd January 1918, at the age of 36.  He was buried in Padua War Cemetery, Padua, Provincia di Padova, Veneto, Italy – Grave Reference:  Plot A.12.

Robert's death had a lasting effect on William Butler (W. B.) Yeats (1865 – 1939), who wrote four poems about Robert’s death – this is the most famous of those poems:

"An Irish Airman Foresees His Death"

I know that I shall meet my fate,

Somewhere among the clouds above;

Those that I fight I do not hate,

Those that I guard I do not love;

My country is Kiltartan Cross,

My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,

No likely end could bring them loss

Or leave them happier than before.

Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,

Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,

A lonely impulse of delight

Drove to this tumult in the clouds;

I balanced all, brought all to mind,

The years to come seemed waste of breath,

A waste of breath the years behind

In balance with this life, this death.

Pictured Major Robert Gregory, Lady Gregory's son who inspired W.B. Yeats's "An Irish Airman Foresees His Death," pictured beside his drawing of Yeats's Thoor Ballylee tower, c. 1917. (Photo courtesy of the Thoor Ballylee Visitors Centre)

Other Sources:

WW1 Artists, Photographers, Sculptors and more who were awarded medals for exceptional bravery

Some of the Artists, Photographers, etc. that I have found during the course of my research, who were awarded medals for bravery.  I am still working on this list, so if you know of others please let me know.  

Geoffrey de Gruchy Barkas, MC, artist/film maker

Alan Edmund Beeton, MC

John Warwick Brooke DCM – official WW1 war photographer

William Robert Gregory MC (1881 – 1918)  - Irish-born, RFC/RAF British airman, artist and cricketer; France made him a Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur in 1917

Carl W Herman, MM (1888 – 1955) – artist

Charles Sargeant Jagger MC ARA (1885 – 1934) - British sculptor

Richard Barrett Talbot Kelly MC (1896-1971) - Lieutenant, Royal Field Artillery

A W Lloyd, MC – Arthur Wynell Lloyd (1883 - 1933) – British cartoonist

Walter Marsden MC (1882–1969) - sculptor

William Charles Penn MC - artist

Geneste Penrose MM - British artist 

Gerald Spencer Pryse MC (1882–1956) - British artist and lithographer

E.H. Shepard, MC – artist

William George Storm, MC (1882 - 1917) – Canadian artist

Dents Wells, BEM (1881-1973) - artist; served in the Artists Rifles during WWI; awarded a B.E.M. for gallantry. 

Sir George Hubert Wilkins MC & Bar (31 October 1888 – 30 November 1958).

Pictured: The British Empire Medal.  First established in 1917;  could be awarded for either meritorious service or for gallantry. It was awarded to 2,015 people, 800 of whom were from other countries.