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Devised by IWM London, the largest exhibition of British First World War art for almost 100 years goes on display in York.

The exhibition is divided into two sections; truth, which explores how art was used as a means by which to document the experiences of war, and memory, focusing on its role in commemoration.

Historically war art reinforced British notions of morality and patriotism, but this was one of the first conflicts where serving soldiers were commissioned to produce depictions of their experiences on the front line. Their work would often be violent, bleak or despairing, providing a direct challenge to the established public perceptions of war.

On display are key examples from artists who were directly involved in the war effort, such as Paul Nash and CRW Nevinson. The latter worked as a medical orderly and ambulance driver in the First World War and committed what he saw in the trenches to paint. In these pictures he presents soldiers as a series of angular shapes, making the definition between human flesh and heavy artillery intentionally unclear.

The display's second half shifts focus to the plans made by the British War Memorials Committee and the Imperial War Museum to build an artistic record of the war in a Hall of Remembrance. Key commissioned paintings, such as John Singer Sargent’s Gassed and Wyndham Lewis’s A Battery Shelled are shown alongside sculptural works by Jacob Epstein and Eric Kennington’s studies for the Soissons Memorial to the Missing.

York Art Gallery

Exhibition Square, York, North Yorkshire, YO1 7EW

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