War Art Piece 4


i. What aspect of war, or event, does this piece of art depict?

This piece of art depicts living in the trenches on the Somme during World War One. It gives us a visual of what trench-life was like, where soldiers lived in terrible conditions, staying in lean-twos and shelters that were built out of whatever materials they could find. The fighting was not very far away and the enemy was always watching, thus, soldiers were always cautious about looking out across the battlefield.

ii. Who created this piece of art?

A Canadian Painter, William Thurston Topham, painted this piece of art, he was born in 1888 and died in 1966

iii. Where was this piece of art created?

This piece of art was created half-way between Mametz and Contalmaison on the Somme in France.

iv. For what purpose was this art created?

This art was created to provide an accurate representation of the living conditions at Bottom Wood. The picture is meant to depict the surroundings of a soldier during wartime such as emaciated trees due to repeated shelling, earthen dugouts covered with corrugated iron and tree branches to remain hidden from aircraft as well as sandbags used to protect oneself from shrapnel. Furthermore the picture shows a relatively serene landscape, even though it is scarred by warfare, thus depicting the possible enemies inaction between battles. Lastly the sign besides the dugout reading, “The Studio, Please Ring” shows that even during wartime soldiers still made light of their temporary homes and used comic relief as ways to separate themselves from the horror of warfare.

v. What does this piece of art tell us about the experience of war?

This painting reveals much of the experience of soldier’s lives during the First World War. While this picture does not depict a bloody battle, it does reveal the battle for survival faced by soldiers while living in trenches like that erected at Somme. Living conditions in the trenches were deplorable, as soldiers were forced to sleep in cold, damp, rodent-infested conditions, without adequate supplies or clothing. Shelter was erected using whatever supplies were available (in this case, logs, branches, and sacks, possibly of supplies.) While the soldier in this picture appears to be relaxed, behind him and above the trench, scorched trees and debris are visible as a reminder that battle is never far away. Daily living and brutal warfare exist side-by-side, providing little respite for soldiers.

vi. How accurate is this depiction of war?

This picture is quite an accurate representation of the war. As previously mentioned, the conditions that the soldiers had to endure on the battle field were deplorable. So many of the troops would write to their families back home so that they would know they were still alive as there was no other means of communication available when on the battlefield. It was a very difficult life for these young men.

How does your piece of art further our understanding of Canadian history? (Collective answer)




Beaverbrook Collection of War Art. ” WarMuseum.ca – History of the First World War – Battles and Fighting.” Canadian War Museum – Musée canadien de la guerre. http://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/guerre/photo-e.aspx?PageId=2.B.1.f&photo=3.D.2.n&f=%2fcwm%2fexhibitions%2fguerre%2fcourcelette-e.aspx&p=1 (accessed March 4, 2013).

Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation. ” WarMuseum.ca – Objects and Photos of the First World War – Art and Culture .” Canadian War Museum – Musée canadien de la guerre. http://www.warmuseum.ca/cwm/exhibitions/guerre/photo-e.aspx?PageId=3.D.2&photo=3.D.2.n&f=%2fcwm%2fexhibitions%2fguerre%2fofficial-art-e.aspx (accessed March 4, 2013).

MutualArt Services. “William Thurston Topham (Canadian, 1888 – 1966) on MutualArt.com.” MutualArt.com – The Web’s Largest Art Information Service. . http://www.mutualart.com/Artist/William-Thurston-Topham/831335D414E2024E (accessed March 4, 2013).

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