27 Aug 2019

Volunteer Selection:
Column on the March, Christopher R W Nevinson

Hello everyone, I have been volunteering at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (BMAG) since January and I am keen to share some of my favourite pictures and objects on display. Watch this space for blog updates of my latest favourite artwork!

So here I go with number one… ‘Column on the March’ by Christopher R W Nevinson is in the Modern British Art Gallery at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. 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.

1988P105 Column on the March, 1915 By Christopher Richard W Nevinson

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. If you have a moment at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery do go and find this work and see how it makes you feel.