Brian Hunter

Brian Hunter

Posted on 08/15/2013

Photo taken on August 15, 2013

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Nevinson in the Field Hospital

Nevinson in the Field Hospital
Nevinson was the only card-carrying Marinetti-certificated English Futurist. His father was a well known war correspondent, his mother a leading Suffragette. When War came in 1914 he was the first of the group to get to the Front. He would not have passed a medical so he volunteered for the Quaker-run Friends Ambulance Service. This led to some interesting debates with his fellow-workers, most of whom were convinced pacifists who nevertheless felt they had a duty to relieve suffering. Nevinson, as a good Futurist, was ideologically in favour of war as a hygienic principle (his views shifted more than once later).

Nevinson's unit served mostly in the rear of the French armies in the early months of the war, when the worst slaughter occured (for all the mythical status of Verdun something like 50% of French war losses came in the first 18 months of the war). Nevinson's health broke down under the stress but back in Britain he painted a series of pictures reflecting his experiences. This is one of them, showing the ghastly conditions in an improvised field hospital (it's dated 1916 but must have been prepared well before that date- by 1916 French infantrymen had long since given up the red trousers visible in the picture).

Nevinson's paintings were very favourably received despite their modernist style. For a short period he was easily the most highly regarded contemporary artist in Britain.
His hour of fame was brief, however, and he never again painted anything as good as the works he created in this spurt of inspiration. By the 1930's he was a forgotten man....