Picturing Conflict: the Arts of War

In this theme you can look at examples of work produced by amateurs as well as professionals – paintings, drawings, posters, and several kinds of photograph. You can compare these varied representations of the war and find out about the different contexts in which they were produced.

How has our understanding of the First World War been shaped by the thousands of images and artefacts produced at the time? And how did the war provide a stimulus to creativity?

This evidence will help you answer some key questions: What is official 'war art' and how and why was it subject to censorship? How did portable cameras change people’s experiences of the war, as well as our own perceptions of it? And how did the first films of war, such as The Battle of the Somme change people’s attitudes to the conflict itself? How useful is ‘art’ in its widest sense in helping us comprehend the impact of the war?

Image credits: Statesmen of World War I by Sir James Guthrie, oil on canvas, 1924-1930, NPG 4527, © National Portrait Gallery, London. Sir Stanley Spencer by Roger Fry, oil on canvas, 1928, NPG 4527, © National Portrait Gallery, London. A sterescope viewer, © National Museums Northern Ireland. Lantern slide. A view of a battlefield on the western front, © National Museums Northern Ireland. Poster stamps, designed by Frank Brangwyn, © Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales. Charge of the Welsh Division at Mametz Wood, 11 July 1916, © Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales. Sketch of a ‘bombing raid', 21 April 1917. From a sketchbook belonging to Private Francis P. Martin, Royal Engineers Signal Service, © National Museums Scotland. Cartoon by 'Pip' from Nurse Mellor's autograph book, © National Museums Scotland. Autographic Vest Pocket Kodak Camera, © Redbridge Museum/Information & Heritage. View of the Parvati temple, © The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum. 1st Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment Artists and committee members of the 'Gustrow Bing Boys' entertainment troupe at Gustrow POW camp, Germany, © The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire Museum.