Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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C. R. W. Nevinson, French Troops Resting, 1916, oil on canvas, 71 x 91.5 cm, Imperial War Museum, London.

© Imperial War Museum.

© Anne Patterson.

The battlefield

30 - C. R. W. Nevinson

Léger and Nevinson are clearly close in terms of generation, background and viewpoint. Geometry is their common language and in this representation of French infantrymen on their way, Nevinson uses the same elements: hemispherical helmets, cubic back-packs, cylindrical limbs and angular greatcoats. Just like Léger's card players, these resting soldiers are faceless, their only expression being one of fatigue, although they have not yet actually reached the battle zone.


30-Nevinson" We reach the tunnel. Down below, the atmosphere is heavy and damp. There is a mixed smell of wet clothing, tobacco and soot. Here and there, candles placed at waist height cast a reddish-brown light. At the far end, at the exit to the tunnel, we can see the grey light of day. We have to bend down to avoid banging our heads on the ceiling. To the right there are wire trellis twin bunk beds. Next to us, the passage is so narrow that a man who is eating there has to haul himself up from his bed to let us past. With his great blond beard and his blue eyes he is now sitting in the middle of wet socks, bread, shoes, cigars and writing paper, and he smiles at his own untidiness. "

Ludwig Renn (pseud. de Adolf Friedrich Vith von Golssenau), Guerre, traduit par C. Burghard, Paris, Flammarion, 1929.