John Singer Sargent - Sketches

On my usual commute, the train always passes by Brookwood Cemetery, the largest burial site in the United Kingdom. I plan to research the site very soon, as you must gain permission from the wardens before walking around un-guided. One interesting fact about it's residence, is that the artist John Singer Sargent is buried there (Brookwood was a cemetery for London inhabitants when the inner-city sites were under strain).

The painting I have always identified most with Sargent is "Gassed" which he painted in 1919 whilst he was commissioned by the British Ministry of Information. The painting portrays the disastrous aftermath of a mustard gas attack, with a line of blinded soldiers marching holding onto each other's shoulders.

Sargent travelled to the Western Front in 1918, he was determined to paint an epic work with many human figures, but struggled to find a situation featuring both American and British soldiers. The "harrowing sight" he encountered was at The Second Battle of Arras on the 21st of August 1918.

After returning to England, he completed the painting from his studio in Fulham. It was voted picture of the year by the Royal Academy of Arts in 1919, and is now held in the Imperial War Museum, along with these charcoal sketches of the plan.

The painting provides a powerful testimony of the effects of chemical weapons, as vividly described in Wilfred Owens "Dulce et Decorum Est"

I found some large scans of his original charcoal sketches for "Gassed", I would assume he completed them whilst posted at the Western Front, he took his findings back home to complete the commission for the British Ministry.

These are all now in the collection of the Imperial War Museum. I have never seen these before, and i think they actually give a very different response to the scene.
To those familiar with the painting, I hope these are interesting to see!

ALSO, leading on from this,

I had a fantastic reaction to my last post regarding Frith Hill POW camp, some very interesting responses. I am planning to take the slide to the Aldershot Military Museum, to see if they can determine if it definitely IS from Frith Hill, then, we may have some interesting prospects for it in the future!

Thanks for reading, as always!

1 comment :

LandGirl1980 said...

This is one of my favourite WW1 paintings, coming second only to "Youth in Mourning" by George Clausen. I have never seen these sketches either, so thank for sharing! :)