The Wounded of World War One

During the Great War, the allies suffered over 12 million wounded, the Central Powers over 8 million. As a subject of artistic inquiry, few artists ventured to tackle such a sensitive theme yet the prevalence of wounded soldiers in the towns and cities of Britain could not be overlooked. As The Windsor Magazine put it in 1916, ‘the parks and squares are full of these good, uncomplaining fellows, to whom we owe more than we can repay’.¬† The writer went on to suggest that the wounded were an ‘attractive subject for the artist’ in reference to a painting titled The Creditors by the British academic artist, John Charles Dollman (1851-1934) which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1916.¬†Dollman The Creditors Another reviewer writing in The Connoisseur remarked, ‘Less immediately warlike is Mr. J. C. Dollman’s Creditors, a row of wounded soldiers sharing a park bench with a trim looking nurse. The scene is given in pleasant colour and with a keen appreciation of the inevitable cheerfulness which Tommy Atkins displays under the most adverse conditions’. A photogravure print was subsequently published by Frost and Read, a provincial company in Bristol, England.

The image shows four wounded soldier sitting on a bench with a nurse in Hyde Park, London. It has been suggested that the four represent soldiers from Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England although this cannot be confirmed. The nurse is lighting a cigarette for one of the soldiers. This picture and the meaning of the nurse is discussed at length in ‘Art of a Second Order’: The First World War from the British home front perspective by Richenda Roberts (Ph.D. 2013), pp. 13, 38 and 126.

Dollman FraterniteIn 1917, Dollman exhibited another war-related painting at the Royal Academy, this one depicting wounded soldiers at the front. In Fraternité, we see a group of invalids marching down a muddy road somewhere on the Western Front. Leading the group is a quartet of soldiers, three of whom are wounded. A French medical orderly with cigarette in hand acts as a support for one of the wounded who may also be French. Flanking this pair are two wounded British soldiers, while other French and British wounded follow behind.

 

 

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