Artists of the Great War

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Official War Art Scheme

Australia’s Official War Art Scheme was established following British and Canadian models, with the intention of preserving a pictorial record of the war, which included art in various media, photography and film. Under this scheme, artists were employed by both the Australian War Memorial and the Army Military History Section.

There were two separate commissioning programs. The first was administered by the Australian High Commission in London, advised by the then official war correspondent and war historian Charles Bean. This involved the appointment of 10 Australian artists living in London at the time—George Bell, Charles Bryant, Will Dyson, A Henry Fullwood, George Lambert, Fred Leist, John Longstaff, H Septimus Power, James Quinn and Arthur Streeton—each of whom received an honorary commission in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Each artist was expected to produce at least 25 drawings during the period of his appointment (usually up to three months), as well as a major painting. The second program involved five artists already serving with the AIF: George Benson, Frank Crozier, Will Longstaff, Louis McCubbin and James F Scott. These artists were selected by Bean to be attached to the Australian War Records Section, and received assistance with art materials and other support. The scheme also later employed sculptors Wallace Anderson, Web Gilbert and Leslie Bowles in the Modelling Subsection of the Australian War Records Section to create topographical models and dioramas.

The works of the official war artists provide a direct response to life on the front line in portraiture and landscape, from moments of powerful action to tense inactivity.


George Coates Australian official war artists 1916-1918 1920, Australian War Memorial, Canberra