Coquelicot Art of the First World War
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William Orpen, Dead Germans in a Trench, 1918, oil on canvas, 91.4 x 76.2 cm, Imperial War Museum, London.

© Imperial War Museum.

The death

84 - William Orpen

Somewhere, two dead men in a partly destroyed trench. They have not yet melted into the chalky soil which has already half covered them. The painting is imperturbable, so at least it appears, and Orpen pays no less attention to the broken duckboards with the pillars planted in the earth than to the blue face and the still tensed arm of the corpse lying on its back. The sky is admirably blue. One thinks of the closing lines of All Quiet on the Western Front: "he fell in October nineteen-eighteen, on a day that was so quiet on the entire front that the despatch merely stated that all was quiet on the western front."