Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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C. R. W. Nevinson, Returning to the Trenches, 1914-15, oil on canvas, 51 x 76 cm, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

© National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Gift of the Massey Collection of English Painting, 1946.

The battlefield

33 - C. R. W. Nevinson

After a period of leave or rest on the home front, a march brings French troops to the front line. This was a possible opportunity for an epic picture of one of those lyrical visions seen in the propaganda. Nevinson however had by then already lost any illusions, despite the early dating of the painting, which was exhibited in London early in 1915. There is nothing enthusiastic or heroic about these soldiers. They are bent under the weight of the outsize packs and guns as they move forward as quickly as they can - towards the carnage. The reds and blues of the uniforms fade away amid the greys and ochres as Nevinson divides the foreground up with slanting lines in the Futurist manner in order to reinforce the feeling of precipitation.