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Menin Gate at midnight Theme: Patriotic Duty

Artist: William LONGSTAFF
Birth/Death: 1879–1953

Title: Menin Gate at midnight

Credit Line: Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Depicting the ghosts of fallen soldiers marching past the Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium, William Longstaff’s painting achieved iconic status after the First World War as Australians mourned their dead. The Menin Gate was built to commemorate the unmarked graves of 56,000 allied soldiers who died in the Ypres area of Belgium. The sheer scale of this horror is beyond the human imagination. In all 60,000 Australians died overseas in the First World War. Only one was brought home for burial. For so many to have died without any identifiable trace was an additional grief for their families. During the painting’s tour across the country in 1928–29, it gave solace to the hundreds of thousands of people who saw it. Over the next decade, thousands of lithographic copies were sold and hung in homes around Australia. Longstaff described how the painting came about. He had attended the dedication ceremony of the Menin Gate and that night, unable to sleep, he had walked back to the Memorial. While standing there he had a vision of all the spirits of the dead rising up from the cornfields.

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