In his 1937 war memoir, ‘Paint and Prejudice’, Nevinson wrote, ‘However, I was working at last, and from here I did such paintings as the ‘Road from Arras to Bapaume,’ the ‘Survivors at Arras,’ the ‘Very Lights at Monchy,’ the ‘Roads of France,’ the ‘Destroyed Canal at Ytres,’ the ‘Hindenburg Line’, and ‘Brigade Headquarters’, pictures which were destined to be distrubuted throughout the world.’
Despite its rustic tranquillity and plein-air clarity ‘Destroyed Canal’ confronts the recent traumas of the Great War. Devoid of people, and describing the residual topographical ravages of war, ‘Destroyed Canal’ has both a haunting emptiness and the salutary promise of natural regeneration. Despite sharing the central receding perspective of Nevinson’s ‘The Road from Arras to Bapaume’ (1918), unlike that painting this work breathes with an almost Post-Impressionist palette.
‘Destroyed Canal’ was exhibited soon after its completion at the artist’s sell-out Leicester Galleries show in March 1918. The show’s critical and commercial success was offset by a belligerent Nevinson’s ongoing feuds with both the military and the art establishment.
The Times critic called ‘Destroyed Canal’ ‘the best picture in the exhibition, the most like Van Gogh. While sharing here the Dutch master’s naturalistic colour and Low Countries rusticity, ‘Destroyed Canal’ equally anticipates L. S. Lowry’s lonely landscape vision with rigid compositional dividers and reduced surface organisation. The canal site is about 8 miles south east of Bapaume’.
This is a rare opportunity to buy one of the few remaining war paintings in private hands from Nevinson’s wartime Leicester Gallery shows.
|Size||61 x 46 cm (23.97 x 18.08 in)|
|Exhibited||Nevinson’s second one-man show, ‘An Exhibition of Pictures of War by C. R. W. Nevinson’, Ernest Brown and Phillips, Leicester Galleries, London, March 1918, cat. no. 11. Purchased by J. Baird, 37 Queens Court, London SW.|
|Literature||‘The Great War Fourth Year Paintings by C. R. W. Nevinson’, with an essay by J. E. Crawford Fitch, Grant Richards Ltd, London, 1918, illustrated plate 5|