Making it real: methods and materials of British war artists, 1914-1919. Volume 1

Clapperton, Stacey (2017) Making it real: methods and materials of British war artists, 1914-1919. Volume 1. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Undertaken during the centenary of the First World War, this thesis endeavours to understand for the first time how British artists made modern British war art. In particular, it investigates the methods and materials used by war artists and examines the motivations behind these choices.

In order to do this, this thesis distils the broad definition of ‘war artist’ into three categories: Home Front artists, Artist-Soldiers and Official War Artists. These categories acknowledge the different generations and artistic styles involved in the production of modern war art, whilst also taking into consideration the wide range of wartime experiences and the environments in which war art was made, whether in the war-zones or from the safety of artists’ studios. In conjunction with investigating how these artists made war art, their working practices are examined in the context of the unique wartime environment. To what extent the war affected the trade and manufacture of artists’ materials and how this in turn had an impact on artistic choice is also investigated.

Object-based analysis of the artworks and any preparatory studies and sketches are analysed alongside artists’ testimonies in order to identify the methods and materials used. This study demonstrates how Home Front artists, who were geographically separated from the war-zones, relied on their imagination and an array of secondary sources including press photographs, eye witness accounts, props and models to create their war art. On the other hand, Artist-Soldiers had the advantage of experiencing the war for themselves but were often restricted from producing art in the midst of active battlegrounds. Their artworks often took the form of small-scale, observational sketches, executed using preparatory mediums such as charcoal, ink and watercolour. However, when official art schemes were devised by Wellington House and the British War Memorials Committee respectively, artists were employed to create war art for specific functions. As a result, the methods and materials used changed depending on whether their art was needed for propagandist or commemorative purposes.

The contemporary critical reception of war art during the First World War demonstrated the need for an artist to have personal experience of their subject matter. First-hand experience resulted in authentic and credible pictures of the war. Seemingly, how a piece of war art was made, where it was made, and what type of wartime experience an artist had, were paramount to how those works of art were valued. However, by uncovering the methods and materials used by Britain’s modern war artists, this thesis challenges the assumptions and conclusions made by contemporary audiences, whilst considering the implications of describing an artwork or an experience as ‘authentic’.

Although we can divide the artists who produced war art during the years 1914-1919 into distinct categories and trends emerge within these categories, ultimately no two experiences of the war were the same. As a result of individual artists adapting to their environments and circumstances differently, a variety of methods and materials are identified throughout this thesis.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: The first volume only of the electronic version will be uploaded when the embargo expires on 31 August 2022. The second volume will be unavailable for viewing due to copyright issues.
Keywords: war, art, First World War, war artist, methods, artists’ materials, modern art, British art.
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > NC Drawing Design Illustration
N Fine Arts > ND Painting
N Fine Arts > NE Print media
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Supervisor's Name: de Montfort, Dr. Patricia and Richter, Dr. Mark
Date of Award: 2017
Depositing User: S Clapperton
Unique ID: glathesis:2017-40926
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2019 15:17
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2022 07:49
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.40926

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