Belgian battle scene

Belgian battle scene

George Edmund Butler's painting Zonnebeke (completed about 1918) captures the devastated Belgian landscape in the aftermath of the great battles of 1917. Zonnebeke is just south-west of Passchendaele, where the New Zealanders fought in October 1917, and just north of Polderhoek, where they saw action two months later.

George Butler became New Zealand’s second official war artist in August 1918 – as it turned out, just three months before the end of the war. There are almost 100 of his works in Archives New Zealand’s war art collection, making him this country's most prolific First World War artist.

The majority of Butler’s surviving work is unpopulated watercolours, indicating they were done at the scene. Most of them show the after-effects of the fighting: grim landscapes ripped apart by shellfire or makeshift cemeteries dotted with crosses.

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