Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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C. R. W. Nevinson, La Patrie, 1916, oil on canvas, 60.8 x 92.5 cm, City Museum and Art Gallery, Birmingham.

© Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery.


78 - C. R. W. Nevinson

It may seem unnecessary to give a long commentary on a painting whose meaning and intensity are immediately obvious. Suffice it to say that Nevinson used his own memories of what he had seen in Dunkirk following the early fighting around Ypres. The title of the painting - The Fatherland - is in French and is clearly ironic. On being exhibited in September 1916, the painting drew a lively response which foreshadowed the reception given to another of Nevinson's 'black' paintings, Paths of Glory.

78-NevinsonWe finally halted, after how many hours? our exhausted flesh, drained of blood, shaken about in other people's arms. I had to comb my fingers over my face as sticky traces stiffened my skin as they dried. I'm going to be a fine sight by the time they get to me, those two slow-moving nurses walking along the foot of the stretchers and bending for a moment over each wounded man. A hand stuck my new Verdun képi on my head, my velvety blue 'flower pot'. How I looked like Pierrot, so pale and blood-smeared in my beautiful new képi! (...)
There is a nauseating smell, of coal-tar, bleach and the sickly smell of blood. "A lieutenant from the 106ths, doctor."
They touched me and another needle pricked me. I could see the dark tunic of the major between two white nurses. They were talking to me. I answered "Yes, yes...". And the doctor's voice said,
"Can't be evacuated. Military hospital."

Maurice Genevoix, Ceux de 14.