Truth and Memory: British Art of the First World War, at the York Art Gallery

18 May 2016 | Liz Robertson

The largest exhibition of British First World War Art for almost 100 years is on show at York Art Gallery, from March 25 – September 4 2016.

The major retrospective comprises of more than 60 artworks from IWM (Imperial War Museums) and features some of the most iconic images to emerge from the First World War, including paintings by Paul Nash, Percy Wyndham Lewis, CRW Nevinson, Stanley Spencer and William Orpen, as well as lesser known, yet significant works, by artists such as Anna Airy and George Clausen

Entitled Truth and Memory, many of the paintings were shown in 2014 at IWM London to mark the centenary of the beginning of the First World War. York Art Gallery is the only other venue to be hosting the exhibition, which includes a new thematic display as well as works from the York Art Gallery’s permanent collection.

Laura Turner, senior curator of art for York Museums Trust, said:

“We are thrilled to welcome some of the most iconic paintings of the First World War to York as part of this major exhibition. York is the only other venue to host this incredibly moving collection of works which have helped shape the nation’s perception of the conflict and war itself.”

Richard Slocombe, Senior Curator of Art at IWM, said:

“York Art Gallery has given us a fantastic and very different space to present this exhibition, allowing us to show some of the larger works together for the first time since the Royal Academy’s show The Nation’s War Paintings in 1919. Throughout, I have looked for links to tie the works more closely to Yorkshire, whether this be the painting of the casualties from the Battle of the Somme arriving at Charing Cross Station, which was painted by Huddersfield artist J Hodgson Lobley, or works shown in the Paul Nash retrospective at Temple Newsam in 1943.”

The exhibition assesses both the immediate impact and legacy of British art of the First World War. Comprised predominantly of works from IWM’s Art Collection, the exhibition shows how artists of all ages, traditions and backgrounds, strove to represent the unprecedented, epoch-defining events of the First World War. The York show presents a new interpretation of the original hang in London, displaying works thematically as opposed to chronologically. It also includes three of York’s works: Richard Jacks’ Return to the Front and Passing of the Chieftain and Sydney Carline’s The Trail of War.

This collaboration with York Museums Trust was inspired by the First World War Centenary Partnership, a network of over 3,400 cultural and educational organisations from 57 countries, which is led by IWM.