The war between France and Prussia in 1870-71 attracted considerable attention from the world’s press and numerous journalists flocked to France to cover the fighting and the subsequent events in and around Paris culminating in the Commune. The Illustrated London News dispatched two artists, William Simpson (1823-1899) and Robert Thomas Landells (1833-1877), and their numerous sketches were sent back to London and engraved in the weekly issues of the paper. Some of Landells’ sketches were flown out of the besieged city by balloon post.
The Military Collection has recently acquired several original sketches by Landells depicting events in the war. These complement other sketches by the artist of the campaign in addition to pictures drawn by him at the conclusion of the Crimean War in 1856.
Several years ago, the collection also acquired a letter by Landells to Simpson from the headquarters of the Crown Prince of Prussia, at Versailles written on November 4, 1870, which provides a brief insight into the life of a ‘special’ artist on campaign. He described his quarters as being satisfactory but that the march up “was pretty rough” and suggests to Simpson that he, too, should try to get similar accommodations as “you will find the Saxons and the Prussian Guard Regiments charming people.” Landells goes on to state that “the lines around Paris are too extended for one artist” but that “we are all getting awfully tired & bored with the whole affair.” The artist describes the work as “risky” and “one does not get sufficient material for the trouble.”
The sketches are paired with the corresponding engraving as published in the Illustrated London News.