The ruins of Ypres

The ruins of Ypres

George Edmund Butler's ghostly painting of the shattered ruins of The cloth hall, Ypres (1919) captures the devastating impact of the First World War on Belgium's urban and rural landscape.

Butler was one of three official New Zealand war artists appointed near the end of the First World War in 1918. The other two were Nugent Welch and Alfred Pearse. These appointments were made a lot later than in countries such as Britain, which had war artists at work from the outset of war. War artists were allowed to get close to the battles to sketch, but the content of their pictures, like letters soldiers sent home, was censored by the War Office. The images were expected to advance patriotic goals.  

Many other soldiers made unofficial paintings and sketches that capture grand battle scenes as well as daily life in the trenches. These works can be seen in the War Art Archive at the Archives New Zealand.

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