Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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Georges Leroux, L'Enfer (Hell), 1917-18, oil on canvas, 114.3 x 161.3 cm, Imperial War Museum, London.

© Imperial War Museum.

The age of artillery

53 - Georges Leroux

Leroux (1877- ?) belonged to a camouflage unit and served in northern France and Belgium. He told how on returning from a reconnaissance mission he had seen "a group of French soldiers taking shelter in a great shell-hole full of water" and how he later painted the picture from a sketch made that same evening. With a realism quite unlike the style of Nash or Léger, he produced a work which attempts to represent as accurately as possible the unrepresentable reality of war.

53-Leroux" I climbed up to the top of the gully I am in. Behind me was Fleury, and in front of me Vaux and Douaumont. I could see out over an area of ten square kilometres that had been turned into a uniform desert of brown earth. The men were all so tiny and lost in it that I could hardly see them. A shell fell in the midst of these little things, which moved for a moment, carrying off the wounded - the dead, as unimportant as so many ants, were left behind. They were no bigger than ants down there. The artillery dominates everything. A formidable, intelligent weapon, striking everywhere with such desperate consistency. "

Fernand Léger, Verdun, November 7th 1916.