(photo: James Deegan)
I consciously went for grey tones so that the red would represent the tragic deaths of so many young men. Also, it allowed me to connect each portrait in this triptych by flowing the red through bunting, to poppies, to blood. The poppies remerge in the final part of the triptych as barbed wire flowers, then wrapped as a crown of thorns on the helmet of the soldier in the final days of the First World War. The wound in the middle of his hand is also deliberately symbolic.
The painting was completed in the Wellington Road Studios in Oxton during a four-month period beginning in February and completing in June 2018. It is painted in oils on cotton canvas. The size is .2.5 metres by 1.5 metres.
Reference materials and inspiration for this painting were:
- H. Shepherd’s First World War drawings. Shepherd is most well-known for his illustrations of ‘Winnie the Pooh’ for A.A. Milne.
- Paul Nash’s paintings of landscapes of WW1 destruction.
- The war poets Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon.
- ‘Testament of Youth’ by Vera Brittan, both the novel and film.
- Reference for the uniform is from Private Middlewick who fortunately survived the war to become a village policeman in Devon for the rest of his life. He becomes grandfather to five boys who grew up in Keighley in West Yorkshire.