(Enlarged Photo)

Great War Seascape c.1917, C.R.W. Nevinson (1889-1946)

Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson began his turbulent artistic life as an ardent supporter of the Italian futurists. As a student studying in Paris, Nevinson enthusiastically imbibed the Futurist Manifesto, embracing its obsessions with machinery, speed and, most controversially, the purifying effects of warfare: ‘War is the world’s only hygiene’, as the Manifesto’s author, Marinetti said.

Nevinson was quickly made to face the brutal reality of such statements in the First World War, in which he enlisted first as an ambulance driver, having been pronounced unfit for military service, and later as an Official War Artist.

Our picture dates from a period of recuperation during the Great War, in which Nevinson sought solace in painting the sea. Unlike other better-known seascapes from this period, in which the human element is removed, our seascape is dramatically reflects inner, human turmoil and the literal blood, smoke and oil of conflict at sea, with an unnaturally vivid red and black-tinged sky and sea. It is, ultimately however, a picture of hope amid horror. Smoke trails from a ship on the far horizon, discolouring the sky but the whole scene is lit by an optimistic sunburst.

The leading authority on Nevinson, Michael Walsh, whose eagerly-awaited biography ‘Hanging a Rebel – The Life of C.R.W Nevinson’ is set for publication in 2007, described our little-known seascape as “breathtaking – full of Nevinson’s post-War confidence and yet displaying the torment and turbulence that he was experiencing in his private life and that was evident in the world around him”.

This important painting emanates from the private collection of a surviving relative of Nevinson, who was given it by the artist in the 1920s.

11” x 15” Oil on panel.

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