Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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Eric Kennington, Gassed and Wounded, 1918, oil on canvas, 71.1 x 91.4 cm, Imperial War Museum, London.

© Imperial War Museum.


75 - Eric Kennington

Following the success of the painting The Kensingtons at Laventrie, Kennington returned to France in August 1917, this time as a painter and not as an infantryman. He took his subjects from the daily life of the British troops, with always the same desire for truth, be it as painful as that revealed by this painting. This is a tightly-knit work, there is a sharp contrast between light and dark, and the postures of the bodies piled up in a narrow space are disturbing. Such immediacy and simplicity makes it the most painfully effective treatment of this subject by a painter.

75-Kennington" In the horizontal abyss, extending stretcher after stretcher, gradually getting smaller as far as the eye could see, out towards the pale opening of daylight, in the untidy hall with dim candle flames flickering here and there, glowing red and feverish, and where, from time to time, wings of shadow would pass over, and for no obvious reason, a sudden stir. You saw the bric-a-brac of limbs and heads moving, you heard cries and moans waking one another and spreading like invisible ghosts. The prostrate bodies rippled, curled up and turned over. "

Henri Barbusse, Le Feu.