Japanese infantry uniform, 1913
Artist Ferdinand Gueldry is well known in France and Europe, particularly for his Marne river scenes and industrial landscapes. In 1914, he was too old to be enrolled, but the next year, he was appointed a Musée de l’Armée (Army Museum) painter and authorized to visit the front, where he painted several scenes representing the First World War, including this one: a powerful evocation of the horror of the terrible fighting of the 2nd Battle of Champagne, which took place in the Marne area in September and October 1915.
In this intense, complex work, various scenes demonstrate the engagement of the French troops, bogged down in a desolate landscape reduced to a deformed field, a mass grave and source of a heavy light. Dismembered enemy bodies and decomposed, rotting plants form the terrain on which men in limbo are reduced to groups of silhouettes difficult to count. Their shapes are difficult to pick out, while their profound distress is clear.
Ferdinand Gueldry (1858-1945), Devant la ferme de Navarrin, offensive of Champagne, oil on canvas, undated, 100.5 x 64 x 2.8 cm. Inventory no.: 2006.1.10643.