To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landing at Gallipoli in 1915, a powerful exhibition explores how Australian artists responded to World War I, both during the conflict and in its aftermath.
Including names like Will Dyson, George W. Lambert, Arthur Streeton, Fred Leist, and Septimus Power, the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, is currently showing a captivating exhibition of World War I art. In addition, for the first time in nearly a century, the exhibition will have on view a selection of works by Evelyn Chapman, described as “the first female Australian artist to visit Europe’s First World War battlefields.” Chapman’s “Interior of a Ruined Church, France,” circa 1919, is a wonderful example of how an artistic eye can transform tragedy into beauty. Our view is from the interior of a cathedral that has witnessed most of its vaulting and walls destroyed by artillery. Even so, a calming sunlight from the left, out of view, bathes the interior with a golden hue. Grasses and even flowers have had their chance to conquer the interior, adding splashes of color to the otherwise gray stone interior of the church. There is a sense of rebirth and renewal in the painting that captures well the beginning of a long recovery in 1919.

Septimus Power, “The Enemy in Sight,” 1916, oil on canvas, 148 x 224.5 cm. The Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Another noteworthy example from the exhibition is Septimus Power’s “The Enemy in Sight,” circa 1916. The painting displays four men on horseback, just as they have spotted their targets. The piece is one of three paintings Power exhibited at the Royal Academy in London in 1916. The museum reports, “painted before he was commissioned as an official war artist, it is an imaginative construction that owes as much to the heroic narratives of the popular press and the image of the bushman-soldier as it does to Power’s genuine affinity with horsemanship.”
“Mad through the Darkness: Australian Artists and the Great War” opened in April and will hang through October 11.
To learn more, visit the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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