THE GREAT WAR

BRITAIN’S
EFFORTS and IDEALS

A selling exhibition of original First World War prints in collaboration with

IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUMS

The exhibition continues until 6th July
to coincide with London Art Week 2024

We have arranged a series of Talks in relation to this exhibition.
You will find details at the bottom of this page.


It has been more than 100 years since a commercial gallery has exhibited and offered for sale the remarkable set of prints called The Great War: Britain’s Efforts and Ideals. So, it is a great privilege to have the opportunity to do so now. The prints, commissioned in 1917 from eighteen artists, are made up of two series; nine sets of six prints depicting Britain’s Efforts in the Great War, and twelve prints depicting its Ideals. As such this was one of the largest and most ambitious British print projects of the early twentieth century; a feat of technical skill and artistic vision, as well as war-time logistics and propaganda.

Today, ‘provenance’ is something of a buzz-word, its significance often over emphasised. However, I cannot remember having handled works with such exciting provenance as these prints. Commissioned by the British Government, impressions were first offered for sale through the Fine Art Society in 1917. When the Ministry of Information was shut down in 1918 the prints were transferred to the newly created Imperial War Museum. They continued to be available to purchase via the Grosvenor Galleries until 1923, when the decision was made to withdraw the works from sale and store them; first at His Majesty’s Stationery Office, before being returned to the Imperial War Museum, where they have remained un-accessioned and awaiting future sale ever since.

There is a common comparison made between private companies and public institutions; that one is small but naturally nimble, the other large but burdened by bureaucracy. This has not been my experience working with IWM. I would like to thank Claire Brenard, Rhodri Cole, Jenni Fewery, Reasey Kheng and all their colleagues, who have worked on this project with great professionalism and decisiveness while retaining all the integrity expected of a National Museum.

Every print sold will generate proceeds that will go directly into IWM’s restricted fund for the development of its art collection through commissions and purchases.

Tom Edwards (Managing Director, Abbott and Holder Ltd)


INTRODUCTION

The Great War: Britain’s Efforts and Ideals
Claire Brenard, Curator, IWM

The collection of lithographs known as The Great War: Britain’s Efforts and Ideals represents a unique episode in the history of British government war art commissioning. Described in the original 1917 catalogue as ‘a first attempt… to put on record some aspects of the activities called forth by the Great War, and the Ideals by which those activities were inspired’, the series was an enterprise that involved some of the best-known artists of the day. In total, eighteen artists contributed to the project, creating sixty-six lithographs arranged into two groups of distinct character; the ‘Efforts’ and the ‘Ideals’. Artists assigned to depict Efforts each created a set of six black and white prints on a particular topic, while artists assigned to the Ideals created a single, larger work in colour. Much was made at the time of the range of differing artistic styles, boasting ‘a wide diversity of outlook’, intended to represent ‘contemporary artistic activity’. Although some of the images may not be familiar to us today, they should be considered alongside the epic memorial paintings of John Singer Sargent and Paul Nash, the stoic war memorials of Charles Sargent Jagger, or the emotive recruitment posters of the era as some of the finest works of visual culture to emerge from the First World War.

It is not known who originally devised the idea to commission the lithographs, although we do know it was organised by the British government’s War Propaganda Bureau. Established at the start of the war in 1914, this highly secretive organisation, directed by the influential Liberal MP Charles Masterman, adopted the name ‘Wellington House’ to conceal its true purpose, after its London location. Masterman had begun by gathering renowned writers including John Buchan, Arthur Conan Doyle and Ford Madox Ford for its books, pamphlets and periodicals. These outputs combined news and opinion and were aimed at influencing public attitudes in neutral and Allied countries. Indeed, during the first two years of the war, Britain and Germany fought an intense propaganda war to bring neutral America on side. Wellington House also started to produce visual propaganda, including explicit anti-German cartoons by Louis Raemaekers, films, photography, and art. May 1916 saw the employment of Britain’s very first ‘official’ war artist, Muirhead Bone, who was sent to France and Belgium to make quietly objective drawings for publication in The Western Front. These were ostensibly ‘factual’ images, printed alongside the publication’s seemingly ‘independent’ news and comment about the war, describing the ‘frightful’ activities of the Germans. It was a subtle but highly effective approach to propaganda that would mark the start of Britain’s tradition of official war art.

Around this time, the Efforts and Ideals scheme was also beginning to take shape. Thomas Derrick, an artist and teacher at the Royal College of Art who worked for Wellington House, was put in charge, and Francis Ernest Jackson, founding member of the Senefelder Club of artist lithographers who ran an influential class in lithography at the Central School of Art, was brought on board to supervise the production of the prints. Jackson also contributed to the series, as did many other established, well-known artists, such as A S Hartrick, George Clausen, William Rothenstein, Augustus John and Muirhead Bone.

Derrick also secured the services of two young artists who, unlike the others, had served on the Western Front. Their latest work, drawing on their experiences, was causing a sensation in London. One of them was Eric Kennington, who had been invalided out of action in 1915, and whose ambitious tribute to his battalion, The Kensingtons at Laventie (1916), was being hailed by critics as a new kind of history painting. The other was C R W Nevinson, who had served as a medical orderly in France before being sent home having suffered a break-down in his mental health. Despite the shock of his experiences, Nevinson created a series of bold, modern, yet accessible paintings that drew a flurry of interest from both returning soldiers and those who otherwise had few means with which to visualise the reality of the conflict. His solo show at the Leicester Galleries in September 1916 was hailed a great success and he was championed by influential politicians and journalists who led calls for artists to be sent to the front on official government commissions. Derrick managed to secure a set of Efforts from both Kennington (Making Soldiers) and Nevinson (Making Aircraft), before they returned to the Front, following William Orpen, and later, Paul Nash, to paint the war as official war artists in the summer of 1917.

At this point, over two years into a now long, grinding war, attitudes to it were shifting. David Lloyd George succeeded Herbert Asquith as prime minister at the end of 1916, highly aware of the public’s general disillusionment. The start of 1917 was a particularly grim and weary time in Britain; there were no longer any illusions about the scale of the carnage because few were untouched by the war. Lloyd George set about revamping government, creating a small war cabinet and new ministries, and appointing new and energetic individuals who would carry out his agenda of boosting morale and ultimately bring victory. In February 1917, a new Department of Information (DOI) was created with novelist John Buchan at the helm. The DOI encompassed news and propaganda, absorbing Wellington House into its Literature and Art section. This section, freed from Treasury interference – which had effectively ended further art commissions after Bone’s and that of the portraitist Francis Dodd – could now create its own war artists commissioning programme. Led by the curator and writer Alfred Yockney, it would mark the start of an entirely new role for artists in the context of war, particularly for those such as Kennington and Nevinson who were young enough to have served.

The completed set of the Efforts and Ideals lithographs were shown for the first time at the Fine Art Society, New Bond Street, in July 1917. Printed in a limited editions of 200 signed and 100 unsigned impressions, full sets of the series were presented to public museums and galleries including the British Museum, Tate Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum and the National Museum of Wales. Prints were sold across Britain, America and beyond, and funds from the sales came back to the British government, supporting the war effort.

Following this first exhibition, a touring exhibition in Britain was organised as well as simultaneous exhibitions in Paris, New York and Los Angeles. Now that the USA had joined the war on the Allied side, the function of the series was less about persuasion and more about bolstering a sense of unity and purpose. By this point in the war, the British government well understood the importance of publicity, or propaganda. Through newspapers, magazines and film, it was learning how to speak to a mass audience, for the purposes of both uniting the nation and its allies, as well as boosting public morale. These were politically necessary goals, to maintain support for a seemingly intractable war. For war publicity to be effective however, understanding the target audience was imperative. By engaging artists of the calibre sent to the Front and for Britain’s Efforts and Ideals, the DOI were appealing to ‘cultured’ and crucially influential audiences. These were the sorts of circles that attended art exhibitions and had the means to buy original art; many among the liberal elite in Britain were discontent at the long war, with pacifist sentiment rising following the publication of soldier-poet Siegfried Sassoon’s statement of protest in June 1917 – against a war he felt was ‘deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it’.

The war was over by the end of the following year, and sales of the Efforts and Ideals lithographs continued for some years afterwards. Responsibility for the series was transferred to the newly established Imperial War Museum, with the Ministry of Information (the DOI’s successor) shut down in December 1918. Soon, though, it was clear that the mood of the nation had changed. People wanted to move on from the war that had wrought such devastation to a generation; ‘the war to end all war’ – as it was hoped at the time. The remaining Efforts and Ideals prints therefore went into storage – for a while at His Majesty’s Stationery Office – and then back to the Imperial War Museum where they have resided ever since. Only now – over one hundred years since their creation – have they been uncovered and exhibited again for sale.

Reviewing the different imagery of the ‘Efforts and Ideals’ prints today reveals a contemporary mindset towards Britain’s part in the First World War that is now largely unfamiliar. There may be trenches in Kennington’s Making Soldiers, but there is no sense of fear or degradation; Frank Brangwyn and Charles Pears’s scenes at sea remind us how the war was fought on many fronts, while Rothenstein’s scenes of Work on the Land seemingly hark back to a pre-industrial age, countered by the industrial subjects of Bone, Clausen, and, of course, Nevinson. But it is the Ideals series that really drive home what a different age it was. Abstract concepts are depicted in much the same way as they had been in illustrations to news and political journalism throughout the latter part of the nineteenth century. So we see Justice and the Arts represented in female classical form, as are countries: Charles Ricketts’s Italia Redenta shows Italy ‘redeemed’ as she battles the double-headed eagle of Austria-Hungary. Many of them are focused on the end of the war – William Nicholson’s Ideal contribution is titled The End of War, with a soldier nailing the trunk of a tree to a bolted door emblazoned with ‘WAR’; Rothenstein depicts The Triumph of Democracy, while Clausen and Gerald Moira show The Reconstruction of Belgium and The Restoration of Serbia respectively.

We hope you enjoy the exhibition – a unique collaboration between Imperial War Museums (IWM) and Abbott & Holder. Every original print sold will generate proceeds that will go directly into IWM’s restricted fund for the development of its art collection through commissions and purchases. There will also be a series of events to accompany the exhibition. Please see the Abbott and Holder and IWM websites for further details.



The Efforts are sold as sets of six with the exception of those by Nevinson, which are sold individually.
We have multiple impressions of all sets of the Efforts with the exception of those by Brangwyn and Rothenstein.

The Ideals are sold both as complete sets and individually.
We have multiple impressions of the sets and most of the individual prints.

Works are sold unframed and unmounted, but framing can be provided.

Unsigned impressions of some of these prints will be available via IWM shop.

Provenance: all works commissioned by the British Government via ‘Wellington House’ (later the Department of Information / Ministry of Information); transferred to the Imperial War Museum after the MOI was shut down in December 1918; transferred to His Majesty’s Stationery Office in 1923; returned to the Imperial War Museum where un-accessioned and stored for future sale, and for whom now sold.



SERIES I

BRITAIN’S EFFORTS
IN
THE GREAT WAR

MAKING SOLDIERS – Eric Kennington
MAKING SAILORS – Frank Brangwyn
MAKING GUNS – George Clausen
MAKING AIRCRAFT – Christopher Nevinson
TRANSPORT BY SEA – Charles Pears
WOMEN’S WORK – Archibald Hartrick
WORK ON THE LAND – William Rothenstein
BUILDING SHIPS – Muirhead Bone
TENDING THE WOUNDED – Claude Shepperson

The Efforts series of prints is notable for giving equal weight to activities on the home front as the battlefront; in fact, little actual fighting is shown. The government wanted to represent the pervasiveness of total war on society, in order to acknowledge the efforts of the people.

George Clausen went to the Royal Gun Factory in Woolwich Arsenal, London – where the workforce had swelled to 80,000 people – to research his series Making Guns. His drawings emphasise the enormous scale of the enterprise; indeed the weaponry produced there were the largest made to date. His use of light, often falling in shafts from great windows above, elevates the dark scenes of the workers dwarfed by industrial cranes and machinery.

C. R. W. Nevinson’s Making Aircraft contrasts the vertigo of flight with scenes of factory interiors which seem to emphasise harmony of purpose between man and machine. The popularity of his prints means that there are few remaining today. These works do not betray Nevinson’s cynicism and opposition towards the war, but instead exemplify wonder at the new technology and thrill of flight.

Muirhead Bone’s series Making Ships, in contrast, is an intricate study of aspects of a shipyard, showing the various stages of shipbuilding, a long-established industry in Britain. Like Clausen’s series, they give us a sense of immense scale of the job, girders and scaffolding dwarfing the human figures below.

Charles Pears, a marine artist, depicts Transport by Sea; the series shows his technical ability and also his gift for atmospheric conditions at sea. Maintaining Export Trade, from the series, shows a sailing ship illuminated in the search beam of a German U-boat. The ship has suffered a direct hit and flames are billowing from its deck – Pears contrasting the modern silhouette of the U-boat with the phantom-like brightness of the sails, symbolising the brave last gasp of Britain’s maritime past.

Frank Brangwyn’s series Making Sailors brings the focus back to the men – and boys – who served in Britain’s Navy. Many of the images emphasise the men’s close proximity to each other, with so many working together that they almost spill out of the picture frame. The figures show unity of purpose – in The Gun, they almost become one with the weapon; many faces eagerly await a portion of Duff (or pudding) in the ship’s mess. When individuals are depicted – in Youthful Ambition and The Look-out – they are turned away from us, looking out to sea.

Each one of Eric Kennington’s Making Soldiers series focuses on an individual, characterised by an acute sense of clarity and resolve. The artist’s strength of feeling towards his fellow men comes across, although these are not individual portraits, but different representations of the ‘Tommy’ in action.

Although they too are unnamed, A S Hartrick does depict the women as individuals in his seriesWomen’s Work, showing the often-dangerous work that they were engaged in. These women are capable, as well as dutiful, even cheerful, as in On the Railways: Engine and Carriage Cleaners. Wellington House knew how important it was to recognise the immense courage and labour of women but drew the line at commissioning any women artists for the Efforts and Ideals scheme.

As well as Hartrick showing women ploughing the land, William Rothenstein was commissioned to show other aspects of this work for his Work on the Land series. He produced a rather understated set of prints, some printed in sanguine, on the subject. In contrast with the new industrialised warfare, Rothenstein shows us the British countryside busy with back-breaking potato-planting and horse-led ploughing and drilling.

Lastly in the Efforts series, Claude Shepperson shows six stages of Tending the Wounded, from the battlefield through to convalescence. The quality of tenderness comes through in this series: a sensitive depiction of caring medical staff, bending over their charges as they are treated or or moved back to England.

Claire Brenard, Curator, IWM


MAKING SOLDIERS
Eric Kennington R.A. (1888 – 1960)

All works are original lithographs signed by the artist and printed in a limited edition of 200 in 1917.
Dimensions of each are roughly 14x18inches.
Works are sold unmounted and unframed, but framing can be provided. Please contact the gallery for information and pricing.

MAKING SAILORS
Sir Frank Brangwyn R.A. R.W.S. R.B.A. (1867 – 1956)

All works are original lithographs signed by the artist, with the exception of ‘Youthful Ambition’, and printed in a limited edition of 200 in 1917.
Dimensions of each are roughly 14x18inches.

Works are sold unmounted and unframed, but framing can be provided. Please contact the gallery for information and pricing.

MAKING GUNS
Sir George Clausen R.A. R.W.S. R.I. R.O.I. (1852 – 1944)

All works are original lithographs signed by the artist and printed in a limited edition of 200 in 1917.
Dimensions of each are roughly 14x18inches.
Works are sold unmounted and unframed, but framing can be provided. Please contact the gallery for information and pricing.

BUILDING SHIPS
Sir Muirhead Bone (1876 – 1953)

All works are original lithographs signed by the artist and printed in a limited edition of 200 in 1917.
Dimensions of each are roughly 14x18inches.
Works are sold unmounted and unframed, but framing can be provided. Please contact the gallery for information and pricing.

MAKING AIRCRAFT
Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson A.R.A. (1889 – 1946)

All works are original lithographs printed in 1917.
Dimensions of each are roughly 14x18inches.
Works are sold unmounted and unframed, but framing can be provided. Please contact the gallery for information and pricing.

TRANSPORT BY SEA
Charles Pears R.I. R.O.I. (1873 – 1958)

All works are original lithographs signed by the artist and printed in a limited edition of 200 in 1917.
Dimensions of each are roughly 14x18inches.
Works are sold unmounted and unframed, but framing can be provided. Please contact the gallery for information and pricing.

WOMEN’S WORK
Archibald Standish Hartrick O.B.E. R.W.S. (1864 – 1950)

All works are original lithographs signed by the artist and printed in a limited edition of 200 in 1917.
Dimensions of each are roughly 14x18inches.
Works are sold unmounted and unframed, but framing can be provided. Please contact the gallery for information and pricing.

WORK ON THE LAND
Sir William Rothenstein (1872 – 1945)

All works are original lithographs signed by the artist and printed in a limited edition of 200 in 1917.
Dimensions of each are roughly 14x18inches.
Works are sold unmounted and unframed, but framing can be provided. Please contact the gallery for information and pricing.

TENDING THE WOUNDED
Claude Allin Shepperson A.R.A. A.R.W.S. A.R.E. R.I. (1867 – 1921)

All works are original lithographs signed by the artist and printed in a limited edition of 200 in 1917.
Dimensions of each are roughly 14x18inches.
Works are sold unmounted and unframed, but framing can be provided. Please contact the gallery for information and pricing.

SERIES II

BRITAIN’S IDEALS

DEFENCE AGAINST AGGRESSION – Francis Jackson
THE RE-BIRTH OF THE ARTS – Charles Shannon
THE RESTORATION OF ALSACE-LORRAINE – Maurice Greiffenhagen
THE RECONSTRUCTION OF BELGIUM – George Clausen
THE RESTORATION OF SERBIA – Gerald Moira
THE TRIUMPH OF DEMOCRACY – William Rothenstein
ITALIA REDENTA – Charles Ricketts
THE FREEDOM OF THE SEAS – Sir Frank Brangwyn
THE END OF WAR – William Nicholson
THE REIGN OF JUSTICE – Edmund Sullivan
THE DAWN – Augustus John

The Ideals series give us an insight into the values the government believed British society should hold in the midst of this cataclysmic war, and indeed what some of the very aims of the war were. Dealing as they do with abstract concepts and complex political dynamics, they depend on traditional imagery and allegory to convey meaning. In format, the Ideals are larger than the Efforts and tend more towards
the poster than artist’s print. Like a poster, they are instructive, but also emotive. While the Efforts inspire awe and pride in what the country was doing, the Ideals engender hope towards the resolution of this most modern conflict.

George Clausen summed up this hope in his notes for The Reconstruction of Belgium in the 1917 catalogue: ‘I believe that when the war is over, the horrors of it will fade from men’s minds like a bad dream: and that they instinctively, and almost as a matter of course, set things in order, and resume peaceful activities. I have tried to suggest this idea in my drawing.’ The theme of nature’s recovery in the aftermath of war would prove to be powerful and enduring for Paul Nash, notably in his 1918 painting, We Are Making a New World. Clausen instead focuses on a fraternity of builders and architects, rebuilding war-torn Belgium, in front of a celebratory crowd.

Gerald Moira’s The Restoration of Serbia tackles a similar theme of national repair. It was Austro-Hungary’s declaration of war on Serbia on 28 July 1914 that had ignited the First World War; by 1917, Serbia was occupied, divided between Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria. Again, a crowd is assembled, amidst girders and the figurehead of Serbia. Elsewhere, countries are represented entirely by figures: Maurice Greiffenhagen’s The Restoration of Alsace-Lorraine to France depicts the former as two exhausted peasant women welcomed back into the fatherly/god-like embrace of France.

Edmund Dulac shows Poland as a fierce warrior, having defeated the black eagle of Germany, while the Polish white eagle rises once more. At the start of the war, Polish territory was split between the Russian Empire, German Empire and Austria-Hungary; it was the site of much fighting, death and destruction over the war years. 1917 saw the Central Powers’ takeover of Polish lands in the wake of the Russian revolution; when the US joined the war it aimed to help Poland become an independent state once again.

Charles Ricketts’s Italia Redenta refers to Italy’s decision to join the war on the Allied side in 1915, after having begun it as neutral. The winged figure of Italia rises above other shackled, cowering figures, representing other neutra countries such as Spain and Switzerland. Francis Ernest Jackson’s United Against Aggression (England and France, 1914) demonstrates how ‘England’ was used interchangeably with ‘Britain’ at the time – the presentation of England as a small country that needed assistance, rather than a global imperial power was also though to be more appealing for a US audience. England and France are represented as regal and genteel, batting away the hostile German eagle.

There is a strong theme of renewal in many of the Ideals; Charles Shannon’s Rebirth of the Arts (ironically) embodies the anxiety that the barbarism of war eclipses artistic activity. Yet it holds promise that there will be a rebirth once the guns fall silent. Augustus John’s The Dawn employs the same motif of a female nude gazing up at the heavens, away from the death and destruction below. There is even a child busy building at her feet, embodying hope for the future.

William Rothenstein’s The Triumph of Democracy is the only lithograph to have text printed alongside the image: ‘While Democracy is unchained, Tyranny is bound, and from the trenches is brought the hope of Fruitful Service for all.’ On the face of it, the work feels far removed from any popular conception of the First World War today. But how many times have versions of this sentiment been deployed in support of wars involving Britain in the 21st century? Similarly, in The Freedom of the Seas, Frank Brangwyn employs another enduring propaganda tactic: that of dehumanising the enemy – here as a monstrous octopus – in rallying support for the cause. However, Brangwyn is careful here not to associate the beast with a nationality per se. This octopus more generally represents the threat of oppression, something to be fought in order to attain freedom, lending the work a less sinister, more respectable, interpretation.

Edmund J Sullivan’s The Reign of Justice presents a late Edwardian view of the world firmly embedded in the attitudes and prejudices of the day, intended to encapsulate British ideas of a post-war commitment to justice for all. Nations represented by people of colour are present but stereotyped, and are firmly placed at the back of the grouping, who all look up to the white female figure of Justice holding her scales and sword.

Finally, William Nicholson’s The End of the War is an image of desperate finality, the ultimate wish fulfilment. It too has a mythical tone, possibly referencing Martin Luther’s famous act of defiance against the Catholic church in 1517. Notably it is the ordinary soldier who brings this about; pools of blood signify war’s aftermath, but also the broken drum of war shows the carnival is over. This is the only image in the series with the slightest whiff of anti-war critique.

Claire Brenard, Curator (Art) IWM


BRITAIN’S IDEALS

All works are original lithographs signed by the artist’s and printed in a limited edition of 200 in 1917.
Dimensions of each are roughly 28x18inches.
Works are sold unmounted and unframed, but framing can be provided. Please contact the gallery for information and pricing.


TALKS

We have arranged three ‘In Conversations’ about the Efforts and Ideals project. These will cover the history of the commission and examine it in the wider context of World War One. They will also consider the prints as an important aspect of the revival of lithography in the early twentieth century.


ONLINE

This will be a pre-recorded dicussion released online by IWM.
Participants: Claire Brenard (Curator, Art, IWM), Tom Edwards (Managing Director, AandH), Professor Sir Hew Strachan (Bishop Wardlaw Professor, St Andrews and Emeritus Fellow, All Souls, Oxford. Former Trustee, IWM).
Please contact us if you would like to be notified when this talk is available online.


IWM

Participants: Rebecca Newell (Head of Art, IWM), Tom Edwards (Managing Director, AandH).


A and H

This event will take place at 30 Museum Street.
Spaces are limited, please contact the gallery if you would like to attend.

Participants: Claire Brenard (Curator, Art, IWM), Tom Edwards (Managing Director, A and H), Professor Sir Hew Strachan (Bishop Wardlaw Professor, St Andrews and Emeritus Fellow, All Souls, Oxford. Former Trustee, IWM).




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