Created in Conflict: British Soldier Art from the Crimean War to Today
17 March – 10 June 2018
To mark the centenary of Armistice Day, artworks made by soldiers from the 19th century to the present day reveal intimate glimpses of soldiers’ lives – from the heroic to the mundane – at Compton Verney in spring 2018.
Created in Conflict will not only explore the subject of soldier art but also shine a light on life behind the battle lines, by the people who were there.
The exhibition will showcase the incredible diversity, resourcefulness and beauty of art produced in wartime, including works made by soldiers in the Crimean War and in the trenches during. Exhibits include an exquisite tiny matchbox house; detailed quilts that reveal how making was often an act of both practical and emotional survival; an oil painting depicting a recuperating soldier during the Crimea, as well as toys produced by convalescing soldiers.
The exhibition will also feature creative collaborations between today’s veterans and contemporary artists.
Those at war have long used art as one way of staying in touch with home and sharing at least part of the experience of battle with loved ones. Art made by military personnel could also be used for propaganda purposes, and this exhibition considers the unsettling effects of objects which can have the power to make us accept a ‘just cause’ or question the motives of war.
Curator Professor Holly Furneaux has brought together more than 50 exhibits that span 200 years of artistic work produced by and in relation to, the British Armed Forces. They will challenge preconceptions about war and behaviour during times of conflict with pieces that reveal creativity, humour and the importance of domesticity, as well as experiences of wounding, death and loss.
“With Created in Conflict, I wanted to present an unexpected dimension of experience and skills, and blur the lines between amateur and professional artistry; using a mixture of work by trained and untrained artists,” says Professor Furneaux. “To achieve this, we engaged with serving military and veterans and worked with them to shape the exhibition and accompanying activities.”
To weave the different narratives of soldiers’ experiences, Holly has attracted loans from a broad range of institutions, such as the Military Medicine Museum, National Army Museum, Royal College of Surgeons, The Imperial War Museum, The V&A, private lenders and, of course, contemporary work from active military personnel and veterans.
Key themes within this expansive show include Home from Home, which explores things that are sent to and from home and looks at how military personnel seek to create domestic or homely environments, even in theatres of war.
Making includes objects like Private Francis Brayley’s beautiful quilt (circa 1864-77) and a prisoner of war’s chess board, revealing their creator’s states of mind. It also demonstrates how technology, materials and tools depended on individual circumstances.
Remaking his a focus on the role patchworks played in soldiers’ understanding of regiment, loyalty and patriotism, while also acting as a metaphor for the treatment of veterans and wounded comrades.
Professor Steven Parissien, Compton Verney’s Chief Executive says: “You could argue that the concept of war art and the role of the war artist began with Crimea. This was the first conflict involving Britain that was reported home, by the likes of William Simpson and James Robertson’s iconic photographs. Successive wars have all seen commissioned war artists documenting the events of the war, but there are few opportunities to see a curated collection of art and crafts made by the soldiers themselves. In light of the centenary of Armistice and ongoing conflicts around the world today, Created in Conflict is an important glimpse into the humanity that lies beneath the horrors of war.”