Art & War

Arthur, Streeton
Bellicourt Tunnel, 1919
Oil on Canvas
122.5 x 229.5 cm
Australian War Memorial (ART12437)

As Charles Bean’s reputation for accuracy and integrity grew, he found that he could exert influence in spheres where he believed he could help.

He was integral in starting up the War Records Office, collecting relics, documentation and correspondence in order to preserve it for the future. Importantly Bean was instrumental in convincing the powers that be of the need to record the arenas of war and the people therein, stressing the need for painters, photographers and sketch artists to capture what, much of the time, cannot be captured in written histories.

Not just any artists would do. Bean wanted – and got – the very best Australia had to offer.

art war

George Lambert
Charge of the 3rd Light Horse Brigade at the Nek, 7 August 1915,  1924
oil on canvas
152.5 x 305.7cm
Australian War Memorial (ART07965)

Acclaimed artists such as Arthur Streeton, Will Dyson, George Lambert and Frank Hurley travelled to the front and recorded the war from their own point of view resulting in some iconic Australian images.

Many of these artworks are preserved in the Australian War Memorial Archives and provide an invaluable insight into the conditions under which our troops served and the classic stoic attitude and sense of humour with which they handled their hardship.

On the back of this initiative by Bean, all of our conflicts since have been well documented by such artists. In addition the Australian War Memorial now has the Official War Art Scheme. Under this career artists and photographers are embedded with troops in zones of conflict and, more recently, with peace keeping forces.

art war

Will Dyson
Going up to the line near Vaux, France 1917
Drawing, crayon with pencil on paper
47 x 63.4 cm
Australian War Memorial (ART02272)

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