This show (until 27 April) offers a chance to see the works of major war artists as well as war poets. Most people will go because of the memorabilia gathered together from private collections. There is a wide range of military paraphernalia for the “war” aspect of war poetry and many manuscripts for the “poetry” side. The former are preferably blood-sodden to emphasise that war can damage your health, while the latter are preferably on scraps of paper to emphasise the rush to write before battle. One should not forget, however, that there is some serious art here as well. The Imperial War Museum (IWM) has trawled its massive stores for paintings to summon that elegiac and elusive spirit of World War I. There are portraits of poets: a particularly fine one is Edmund Blunden by Rex Whistler. There are also superb paintings by Nash, Nevinson and Clausen. For those who missed the Nevinson exhibition at the IWM in 1999, now is the chance to make good. There are also major prints by Nevinson and Nash (above, “A shell bursting, Passchendaele 1918” shown here).
Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Anthem for doomed youth: twelve soldier poets of World War I'