Remembering 1916 displays historically-significant portrait collection
Remembering 1916 - Life on the Western Front, Whitgift’s major First World War Centenary exhibition, has, for the first time in the UK, displayed a collection of portraits by renowned Swiss artist, Eugène Burnand (30 August 1850 - 4 February 1921). The portraits are original published prints, from between 1917 and 1920, which were brought together in a book entitled Les Alliés Dans La Guerre Des Nations.
Whilst he was a much-celebrated artist in his home nation, as well as in France, he has been relatively unknown in Britain, and unjustifiably so. His portraits on display depict Allied participants in the Great War; men and woman subjected to the long and brutal fighting, frank insights to us today, as we come face-to-face with their likenesses in Burnand’s detailed pastel works. We see a British sailor, a New Zealand sergeant, a Senegalese sharpshooter, a French priest, a Pakistani auxiliary, an American nurse, to name a few. The sheer number and variety of nationalities is a pertinent reminder of the far-reaching effects of the War, which brought together the Allied Forces from disparate corners of the globe.
Born in Moudin, Burnand had a passion for art from a young age, going on to study, initially, architecture in Geneva, and then fine art in Paris. He was widely travelled, settling in Versailles with his family. At the outbreak of the War, he returned to Switzerland, subsequently moving back to Paris once the War was over, remaining there until his death. He won various awards during his lifetime, including two French Legion of Honour awards.
In the months following the launch of Remembering 1916, the Exhibition was delighted to welcome relatives of the artist. In May, Burnand’s great-granddaughter, Ann Witheridge, and her extended family viewed the display. In April, his granddaughter, Jocelyn Campbell, visited together with Shirley Darlington, who has written a book about the painter and illustrator, and Doug Jenkinson, who created a website dedicated to Burnand. The UK-based relatives were thrilled to be able to see the works in Britain and to share their heritage with younger members of the family.
One can see 56 beautifully-illustrated portrait prints, part of the original 104 published shortly after the close the First World War, at the Remembering 1619 exhibition. Eugène Burnand: In Search of the Swiss Artist (1850-1921), by Shirley Darlington, is on sale in the Exhibition Shop. The book details the author’s quest to learn more about Burnand’s life and work, and explores the ‘ethnic diversity of the first ‘global war’…with stories about some of the individual subjects who went on to achieve much in later life’.
Remembering 1916 – Life on the Western Front exhibition catalogue, by Dr Christopher Barnett (published 2016, Whitgift School)
Eugène Burnand: In Search of the Swiss Artist (1850-1921), by Shirley Darlington (published 2016, Uniform part of the Unicorn Publishing Group)
Download our guide to the portraits the Exhibition has on display, below.
A guide to the Eugene Bernand portraits in the Exhibition