Sunday, March 09, 2014

Paul Hogarth's colour illustrations for Siegfried Sassoon's First World War novel

The Victoria & Albert Museum currently has a small exhibition of Paul Hogarth's colour illustrations for Siegfried Sassoon's First World War novel Memoirs of an Infantry Officer.

The exhibition is hidden away in a gallery that is little more than a corridor, and is very hard to find.

The illustrations date from 1981, but in style seem older and unthinkingly repeat the lions-led-by-donkeys cliche-myth.





















Above:  safe in a comfortable headquarters (a commandeered hotel no doubt), this old buffer seems to be walking from lunch to the map room, presumably to send more young men to their deaths.  It is easy to laugh at these characters and lampoon them.  The reality was much more complicated.




















Above:  the bomb throwing scene.  The soldiers are just dehumanised shapes in the distance.  Sassoon loved the men under his command, so it is odd to see them conceived in this way.





















Above:  the wire cutting scene.  Again the men are just tiny shadows.  Bands of dull colour - blue, brown, black.





















Above:  the hospital ship taking Sherston/Sassoon back to England on sick leave.  Three quarters of the image is filled by the grey sea.  The novel has Sherston/Sassoon looking out of a porthole, which might have been more effective as an image than this rather anonymous view.

http://www.vam.ac.uk/whatson/event/3094/memoirs-of-an-infantry-officer-paul-hogarth-illustrates-siegfri-4487/ 

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