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Our Gallery Interpreter Rosemary introduces Column of the March: It is almost completely monochrome, painted in blues from palest to almost black, and a few dabs of brown. Depicting World War One (WW1) it is devoid of any bright colour and seems to me to be a unique way of looking at warfare. It is an atmospheric image of a wet day, and the grey sky is reflected in the road. A visual description of men at war, a fighting machine, a phalanx of marching men with two mounted men moving through a very miserable and wet landscape. A stark and gloomy image it feels grim and the sound of marching boots seem to echo from the frame.
Nevinson was a driver in Flanders in the Friends Ambulance Unit, he was a Quaker and an official war artist. He lived and studied in Paris for a while sharing a studio with Modigliani. He was a friend of Laurence Cadbury with whom he served in WW1, and the picture was presented to Birmingham Museums by Sir Adrian Cadbury.
Nevinson’s work is extremely powerful, and he was described as 'most successful, most promising, most admired and most hated ' (C.L. Hind,1920). In other words, a rather contradictory figure. The column of men look endless and mechanistic. One of our visitors said “I wonder what they are thinking about, do they know how awful it will be?”.
It is an incredibly thought-provoking image.
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