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You are hereHarvey-LeeHomeHarvey-LeeCatalogues - Main Introduction Harvey-LeeThe Great War 1914-1918

1914-1918, THE GREAT WAR
Through Printmaker's Eyes

The First World War produced more war-related art than any war before or since. Being the first war to call on volunteer soldiers and then to impose general conscription, meant that many artists were themselves combatants, directly involved in the conflict and experienced, at first hand, life at the front as serving soldiers in the midst of action. And quiet intervals in the war allowed time for sketching.

Theophile Steinlen: Soldier sketching. 1915
Theophile Steinlen: Soldier sketching.
Original lithograph, 1915.
The right-hand image of Feuille de Croquis, No.2.

Making war and making art may seem anomalous activities but during the past five hundred years scarcely a century has passed without European countries engaging in war and artists taking it up as a theme, though mainly focussing in the past on the ‘picturesque’ panoply of war and celebrating national victories.

It is noteworthy, and of particular relevance to this catalogue, that the two great earlier exceptions, in which the artists recorded and commented on the cruelties of war, rather than glory, and its ill effects on the civilian population, Callot’s Miseries of War (prompted by the Thirty Years War in the 16th century) and Goya’s Disasters of War (concerning the early 19th century campaign of Napoleon in Spain) were both expressed in series of original etchings, and aquatints.

Graphic art at the service of ‘graphic’ content.

Printmaking had an important place in First World War art, though it is seldom given the limelight received by First World War paintings.

The prints produced were impressive in their quantity, quality and variety, as witnessed by this catalogue dedicated specifically to the work of printmakers.

James McBey: Zero. A sixty-five pounder opening fire, Jelil, Sep.19, 1918. Drypoint

James McBey: Zero. A sixty-five pounder opening fire, Jelil, Sep.19, 1918. Drypoint.
McBey served as an officer in France until the summer of 1917, when he was appointed the official war artist to Egypt.

Frank Henry Mason: The Collier Transport ‘River Clyde’ landing troops at V. Beach

Frank Henry Mason: The Collier Transport ‘River Clyde’ landing troops at V. Beach, Sedd-el-Bahr, in the Dardanelles,
25th April, 1915
(Anzac Day). Drypoint.
Mason served in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve in the North Sea and in the Mediterranean and Suez Canal.

Artists chose to make prints, rather than paintings, for a variety of reasons. For some it was because they were essentially graphic artists, it was their chosen, usual, means of expression, for others it was prompted by a commission.

Artists continued to exhibit throughout the war years and the exhibitions were well attended. In a period of censorship there was a ready market during the war for images the public found informative as well as works of art.

Prints being multiples were available and affordable for numerous people to be able to acquire. Editions were sometimes sold in their entirety to benefit war-related charities. An example being Muirhead Bone’s drypoint of Piccadilly Circus in 1915 with the searchlights at night, of which an impression is included in the catalogue. In addition to fundraising for the Red Cross and Belgian refugees, prints were also produced for the government as propaganda for recruiting purposes, and though they were largely ignored in the various Official War Art schemes, the one major commission, from the Department of Information in 1917, The Great War: Britain’s Efforts & Ideals, involved 18 artists in making a series of 66 lithographs.

Christopher Nevinson: Banking at 4000 Feet  

Christopher Nevinson: Banking at 4000 Feet.
Lithograph, 1917, for ‘Building Aircraft’,
one of Britain’s war ‘Efforts’. Nevinson volunteered in 1914, serving for a time as a stretcher bearer in Dunkirk with the Friends’ Ambulance Service. In 1917 he was appointed an official war artist on the Western Front.


Though prints by British artists predominate, other nationalities are represented too, both from the Allies and the Central Powers. The catalogue includes prints by American, Canadian, French, German, Austrian, Galician and Czech artists.

The catalogue represents almost every one of the defining aspects of the Great War. Not only was it the first World war, fought simultaneously on several fronts, involving many nationalities, it was also the first mechanised war, dominated by artillery, resulting as never before in mass carnage, the ruination of towns and villages and devastation of the landscape.

It was the first in which civilians were subject to air raids; the first with aerial combat and submarine warfare; the first to use the tank, and gas, as weapons; that saw the introduction of the tin hat and the invention of dazzle camouflage. Equally it was the first war in which women played an important role, not just as nurses but in replacing men in factories and on the land, so that for practical purposes skirt lengths shortened and women began to wear trousers; the first to touch every household.

Frederick Ellis: Rue de Lille, Ypres, 1915

Frederick Ellis: Rue de Lille, Ypres, 1915. Etching.
Ellis served as a gunner in the second battle of Ypres and suffered the effects of gas poisoning

Robert Henry Smith: Dazzle ships in convoy, escorted by a destroyer. Etching

Robert Henry Smith: Dazzle ships in convoy, escorted by a destroyer. Etching.
Smith was in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and served at the Battle of Jutland.

The catalogue is arranged to follow the chronology of the war, charting as it were, its progress.

The selection of prints offered aims to show the wide range and rich variety of themes which the war evoked.
The images are equally a testament and memorial to those who served.

More images from the catalogue are shown elsewhere on the website in a recently archived Home Page Selection.

Published October 2014
to accompany an exhibition at the Court Barn Museum, Chipping Campden.
A5 (octavo - 210 x 147 mm); 108 pages, 156 illustrations, 26 in colour
Introductory Essay; Chronology; Bibliography; and 99 items described

(U.K. price £15; International orders £20)

Prints available
Prints from this catalogue are still available.

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Elizabeth Harvey-Lee, Catalogue 56; The Great War through Printmaker's Eyes - Front Cover image

Artists included in the catalogue:

  • Aiken J M
  • Austin R S
  • Barraud C H
  • Beckmann M
  • Bellows G W
  • Berne-Bellecour J J
  • Bone M
  • Boutet H
  • Brangwyn F
  • Brüning M
  • Busset M
  • Büttner E
  • Campbell N M
  • Clément-Servau
  • Colin P E
  • Crawshaw L T
  • Dix O
  • Eby K
  • Ellis F V
  • Forain J L
  • Griggs F L
  • Grieffenhagen M
  • Guillaume A
  • Hampton H G
  • Hassam C
  • Hepburn J W
  • Hermann-Paul R G
  • Hübner U
  • Jansen F M
  • Jonas L H
  • Kollwitz K
  • Laske O
  • Laurens J P
  • Lepère A
  • Lismer A
  • Ludovic-Rodo (Pissarro)
  • Mason F H
  • McBey J
  • Moss S D
  • Nash P
  • Nevinson C R W
  • Packard S E
  • Pryse G S
  • Robertson P
  • Schmutzer F
  • Shepperson C A
  • Simpson J
  • Smith R H
  • Steinlen T A
  • Strang I
  • Unold M
  • Vik K 0
  • West J W
  • Wolfsfeld E
  • Wood W T
  • Wyllie W L

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Frank Brangwyn: Tending the Wounded

Frank Brangwyn: Tending the Wounded. Woodcut, 1915,
from a series of six.





Otto Dix: Dead Soldier. Drypoint

Otto Dix: Dead Soldier. Drypoint,
from the series Death & Resurrection, 1922.
Dix served as a gunner on the Western Front and in Belorussia.




Sidney Moss: Loos Advanced Dressing Station. Lithograph

Sidney Moss: Loos Advanced Dressing Station. Lithograph, 1916.
Moss served in the Labour Corps, the Royal Army Medical Corps
and the Field Ambulance Territorial Force in France & Salonika.