Currently on display at the Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum is an exhibition marking the centenary end of the First World War. Titled ‘Are You In This? Leamington Spa In The Great War’, it tells the story of town of Leamington Spa and its people during the conflict of WW1. This exhibition will be on display until 11th November 2018.
The exhibition is divided into sections, including: ‘Active Service’, ‘Treating the Wounded’ and ‘The Home Front’ all of which explore a different aspect of life during WW1 and its impact. The display includes objects, such as photographs and letters, alongside numerous posters from the museum’s collection.
One of the objects on display in the Active Service section is a print of a painting by artist Fortunino Matania (1881 – 1963). Matania was an Italian artist most well-known for his portrayal of trench warfare during the First World War. The artwork, titled Private Henry Tandey on the Battlefield, shows Private Tandey at the Menin crossroads. This is where a key battle took place in 1917, during the Battle of Ypres. The surrounding landscape shows desolated buildings and the Menin road disappearing ominously into the background. Private Tandey was born in Leamington Spa and was awarded the Victoria Cross for a number of acts of bravery during the capture of the village Marcoing in 1918.
The Home Front
In addition to Matania’s print, there is also a series of posters exhibited. One on display in ‘The Home Front’ section is an appeal by The Blue Cross Fund. It presents an extremely distressed horse with the words ‘Please Help The Horses’ written in bold in the left corner. The Blue Cross, which still exists today, treated sick and injured war horses and dogs. These posters were used to appeal for donations in order to carry out this important work.
Spotlight – Miguel Mackinlay
In addition to the museum’s main temporary exhibition, there is also a spotlight display of works by Spanish artist Miguel Mackinlay (1895 – 1958) on loan from the Miguel Mackinlay Trust. In 1917, Mackinlay was called up to the 3rd Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment, having moved to London. During the First World War, he created many pertinent sketched images, presenting snapshots of life on the Western Front.
One of the sketches shown in the display, created in 1918 with pen and ink wash, shows an injured soldier, resting in what appears to be a military hospital. Although the soldier looks peacefully asleep, it appears that the artist has purposefully depicted the bedsheet covering the man, leaving the viewer to dread what injuries lie beneath.
Curator’s Comment: Huw Jones
“This exhibition is the culmination of our programme to commemorate the First World War. It looks at the experiences of Leamington Spa men and women during the war. We look at the men and women who were on active service or helping to treat the sick and wounded and also at what life was like in Leamington during the war. The exhibition contains many fascinating objects and propaganda posters from Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Museum’s collection, together with some loans from other museums. The exhibition has been very popular and has received many good comments from visitors.”
Are You In This? Leamington Spa In The Great War is open until 11th November 2018.
Spotlight – Miguel Mackinlay is open until November 2018.