1869 - 1941
oil on board
signed and dated 1918 and on verso titled on the McMichael Art Collection exhibition label and inscribed "603"
8 1/2 x 10 1/2 in, 21.6 x 26.7 cm
Estimate: $20,000 - $30,000
Sold for: $22,500
Private Collection, Vancouver
Sold sale of Fine Canadian Art, Heffel Fine Art Auction House, November 5, 1998, lot 207, titled as Battlefields, WWI
Private Collection, Toronto
Battle Lines: Canadian Artists in the Field, Canadian War Museum, 2003, unpaginated
Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, Battle Lines: Canadian Artists in the Field, November 4, 2000 - April 20, 2003, traveling to McMichael Canadian Collection, Kleinberg; Canada House Art Gallery, London, UK; Australian War Memorial, Canberra; Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Charlottetown; and the Owens Art Gallery, Sackville, catalogue #2000-2
During World War I, John William Beatty was one of the first four official Canadian war artists appointed by the Canadian War Memorials Fund. The other three were Frederick Varley, Maurice Cullen and Charles Simpson, each of whom were given the rank of captain and full military pay. After some time languishing in the Whitby base near Toronto, Beatty was shipped overseas to France along with Cullen. Often working under German fire, they sketched at the Canadian front, depicting “the horror, the honour and the humanity of the battlefield.” The brochure for the 2000 – 2003 Canadian War Museum Battle Lines touring show states: “This exhibition marks the first time that a substantial group of these artists’ sketches have been seen together. Preparatory field sketches like these were not returned to the Fund, with the result that many ended up in miscellaneous public and private collections. Others were lost or – in the case of artist J.W. Beatty – stolen during the War.”
While many of the wartime sketches depict the obvious tragedies of the war, such as destroyed buildings or temporary field hospitals housing injured soldiers, this sketch is haunting in a different way. At first glance it seems as though it is merely a pleasant landscape. On closer inspection, however, one realizes that this is in fact a battle-ravaged landscape. The burnt, dead trees, which Beatty has conveyed with single strokes of paint, are solemn sentinels to the devastation of the land. There are clouds of smoke across the landscape, reminding us of the lasting effects of this tragic international conflict.
During the Battle Lines exhibition, this work was displayed with one other sketch by Beatty – Field Hospital, which was sold by Heffel on May 27, 2017, lot 401. At the time of the show, these two works were believed to be the only WWI sketches by the artist remaining in private hands.
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