First World War art

Page 2 – Unofficial war art

Horace Moore-Jones and Gallipoli

In 1915 New Zealand came tantalisingly close to being one of the first Allied countries to produce its own official First World War art. In August that year, when the actions of the Anzacs at Gallipoli were already becoming legendary, the Director of New Zealand’s Dominion Museum, J. Allen Thomson, wrote a memorandum to the Minister of Internal Affairs. He suggested that records should be collected from the Gallipoli Campaign for the Museum’s historical collection. He included in his wish list ‘photographs and sketches relating to the operations’ on the Peninsula.

The most eligible candidate to complete these sketches would have been the professional artist Horace Moore-Jones. Sapper Moore-Jones had arrived at Gallipoli with the New Zealand Engineers but was transferred to topographical work when an officer noticed him sketching one day and made enquiries about his artistic qualifications. The topographical maps Moore-Jones made of Gallipoli were used for practical purposes, particularly by the artillery, to calculate enemy positions and triangulate targets. This work also gave Moore-Jones time to contemplate and familiarise himself with the landscape of the Peninsula.

Thomson’s plans for the Dominion Museum were never properly implemented at Gallipoli. No sketches were commissioned. Major General Alexander John Godley, Commander of the First ANZAC Corps, the Honorable Colonel Sir Heaton Rhodes and the official war correspondent Malcolm Ross did organise some collecting of ‘trophies’ during the campaign but most of these were lost in the December evacuation.

In contrast to soldier-artists like Horace Moore-Jones, who had a direct experience of the First World War, most civilian artists were far removed from the grim realities of the battlefield. The war barely features in work produced by expatriate New Zealand artists living in Britain and Europe between 1914 and 1918. Raymond McIntyre and Sydney Lough Thompson, in particular, continued to depict their favourite subject matter, deliberately ignoring the war. Two notable exceptions to this trend were Frances Hodgkins and New Zealand-based Walter Armiger Bowring.

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'Unofficial war art', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 5-Sep-2014