Saturday, August 09, 2014

Imperial War Museum

Travoys Arriving with Wounded at a Dressing-Station
in Smol, Macedonia, September 1916. Stanley Spencer
To the Imperial War Museum on Thurs for a friend's retirement party. He gave a moving speech pointing out that for most of 1914 the question of war was not remotely on the minds of the UK. There was extensive discussion of Irish Home Rule and the Suffragettes and the crisis in the Balkans didn't really figure, even until July.

He urged us all to see the exhibition afterwards and the WWI paintings are (naturally) quite depressing. Partly this is a question of the subject but also in general the artists aren't that great. However this very striking painting by Stanley Spencer is an exception.

The museum as a whole is fascinating. The building was originally constructed in 1815 to be the site of the Bethlem Royal Hospital which dates back to 1247 and was the first hospital in England for the insane. The massive atrium has large flying exhibits including a Harrier, a Spitfire, a V1 and a V2.  It is of course too simplistic to say that war is always insane, but there is (almost) always an insanity in war.  Showing Nuclear Bombs is a salutary reminder of how much death can be placed in a little package.  Yet it is worth remembering that the Influenza epidemic of 1919 killed more people than WWI.
Casing for Little Boy


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