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Brushes with War Exhibition 1914-1918, WW1 through the eyes of the Soldiers on the front line

Updated: Jul 1

To Commemorate the Centenary of the end of World War 1, Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum recently held an exhibition of 200+ drawings and paintings created by soldiers who served between 1914 and 1918.



F. P. Thursby - British Army, B.E.F. Highlander in Gas Mask - Undated - Watercolor on board - Its hard to believe that Scottish regiments actually wore kilts in combat.

The majority of the works on display were from a collection owned by the World War History & Art Museum in Alliance, Ohio, USA and a small amount were from Glasgow Museums own holdings.




A.F.D. Bannister - Royal Navy - The Battle Cruisers at Jutland 1916 - Watercolor on paper - Over 6000 British sailors were killed at the battle of Jutland.

As a Genealogist I have completed quite a few courses on World War 1 history. These included topics such as aviation history, heroism, trauma and a whole host of stories about soldiers from the front line.


I have had to examine artwork as a way of learning how the war was portrayed during that time and I quickly realised that Artwork was often created by war artists who were specifically employed to go out to the many theatres of war and depict scenes for either propaganda purposes or to record specific battles or events.


Many of these depicted men being heroic or showed them getting to travel overseas and made war look like an adventure! They needed men to fight and this was a way of not only getting men to enlist but to help families to encourage their loved ones to join up and serve their country.


Countless men who had never even left their own area before went out there with a romanticised idea of getting to travel the world and coming back a hero….the reality was that they would be lucky if they ever did return!


Unknown Wounded Doughboy - US Army, A.E.F. 'I Don’t Wanna Get Well' - Circa 1918. - Pencil drawing on paper - one of the more humorous drawings in the collection this soldier was in no hurray to return to the front line.

When I first heard about this exhibition I was keen to attend and was excited at the thought of getting to see actual depictions of the war as seen through the eyes of those who served.


I must admit, it did not disappoint!



E. Voituron - Imperial German Army - English Soldier Died For His Country, Mons, August 23, 1914 - Vimy, July 25, 1915 - Watercolor on paper

The collection was broken down into various years and had separate sections covering the war on the battlefield, in the trenches, at sea, in the air, as a prisoner, in hospitals with a separate section on the Glasgow War Artist Fred A Farrell (who is not your typical war artist and who I will try to come back to in a future blog post).



A. Hirsch - French Artist - Biplan Voisin Mitrailleur (Voisin Machine Gunner Biplane) September 22, 1915 at La Rouillardiere, France - Pencil drawing - The Voisin biplane was a 'pusher' with the propeller behind the pilot. This left the front open to allow a Hotchkiss Machine Gun to be mounted.

The images were in various formats ranging from pencil to oils and watercolours with some being drawn on postcards or pieces of cardboard, it is obvious to see that the artists used anything that they could get their hands on to jot down their sketches.


Each of the works depict everything from monotony, horror, humour, desolation, hardship, disease, optimism and death and was created by soldiers from numerous countries including Austria Germany, Britain, Belgium, France & America to name a few.



Signed in the lower left corner. Possibly by "Jeauriet" Circa 1916 -French Poilu bundled up in the cold, wearing an Adrian steel helmet and Croix de Guerre medal. He is holding a French St. Etienne machine gun wrapped up in cloth to protect it from the mud and elements.

An incredible uncensored collection, these are the images of the Great War that families at the time did not get a chance to see.


Many of these soldier artists did not survive the war, it’s such a waste of talent and I am sure that many would have gone on to create further outstanding works.


Social History is such a big part of researching our own family histories, it helps us understand how our ancestors lived and often died. Two of my Great Uncles died in the Great War and this exhibition took me one step closer to seeing through their eyes during that time.



Charles Barbaro (1896-?) - 26th Yankee Division, A.E.F. - St. Mihiel 1918 - From a Pencil Sketch Made on the Spot - 1918. - Oil on board.

Many Thanks to Joel Parkinson of the World War History & Art Museum for providing me with information on the collection and for giving me permission to use the images for this post.


Find out more about the collections held at the World War History & Art Museum


A book called ‘Brushes with War: Paintings and Drawings by the Troops of World War I: The WWHAM Collection of Original Art’ by Joel Parkinson has been released detailing these images, if you would like to see the full uncensored collection for yourself then then the book is available via Amazon


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