David Jones, artist and poet (1895-1974) begins his PREFACE TO THE ANATHEMATA :

'I have made a heap of all that I could find.' (1) So wrote Nennius, or whoever composed the introductory matter to Historia Brittonum. He speaks of an 'inward wound' which was caused by the fear that certain things dear to him 'should be like smoke dissipated'. Further, he says, 'not trusting my own learning, which is none at all, but partly from writings and monuments of the ancient inhabitants of Britain, partly from the annals of the Romans and the chronicles of the sacred fathers, Isidore, Hieronymous, Prosper, Eusebius and from the histories of the Scots and Saxons although our enemies . . . I have lispingly put together this . . . about past transactions, that [this material] might not be trodden under foot'. (2)

(1) The actual words are coacervavi omne quod inveni, and occur in Prologue 2 to the Historia.
(2) Quoted from the translation of Prologue 1. See The Works of Gildas and Nennius, J.A.Giles, London 1841.

25 April 2016

Missing In Action | This Present Inaction

Anzac Day 2016: Australia's finest war artist is missing in action
April 25, 2016 - 12:15AM
Ross McMullin / THE AGE (full text quoted below)

Why is Will Dyson nowhere to be seen at the War Memorial?
"This year marks the centenary of Will Dyson becoming Australia's first official war artist. Ballarat-born Dyson, a remarkably talented and versatile artist-writer, had struggled to find a congenial niche in Australia, but after venturing to England in 1909 became such a stunning success as a cartoonist for the London Daily Herald that he was described six years later as the most famous Australian in the world.

Dyson retained a sentimental attachment to his homeland despite feeling he had to leave it to make his mark. He was profoundly moved by the Australian Imperial Force's contribution at Gallipoli, and his emotions were further stirred when Australian soldiers became involved at the Western Front in 1916 and suffered immense casualties at Fromelles and Pozieres – almost 30,000 in two months.
May 1919 Daily Herald cartoon by Will Dyson ''Peace and Future Cannon Fodder' in which he predicts and depicts the next generation of cannon fodder - "1940 Class".
Dyson felt impelled to contribute. He volunteered to go to France to create an illustrated record of this significant epoch in the national story. His application declared that he wanted "to interpret in a series of drawings, for national preservation, the sentiments and special Australian characteristics of our army". Dyson, by now 36, began as an artist during the most severe French winter for decades.

Some artists who followed Dyson to the Western Front gravitated to colourful landscapes or scenes of dramatic action – blood-and-thunder bayonet charges, lethal military hardware, straining horses dragging big guns forward. Dyson's focus was different. He concentrated on the men.

What he showed in his black-and-white sketches was much harder to draw – exhaustion and endurance, grit and grime. He sketched Australians waiting, resting and sleeping. He captured them stumbling out of the line, drained and dazed. He drew weariness, perseverance, fatalism. "I never cease to marvel, admire and love with an absolutely uncritical love our louse-ridden Diggers," he declared.

 Will Dyson, 1916, Coming out on the Somme
Dyson revered Australia's soldiers and their achievements, but he utterly detested war. "I'll never draw a line to show war except as the filthy business it is," he told his friend Charles Bean, the Australian official correspondent (and, later, the AIF's official historian). Bean concluded that Dyson experienced at least 10 times more of the real Western Front than any other official artist, British or Australian. Indeed, Dyson, though a non-combatant artist, was wounded twice.
Bean and Dyson were prominent in discussions at the front about how Australia's contribution in the conflict should be commemorated. As the concept of what was to become the Australian War Memorial took shape, Dyson remarked that battlefield models had been especially evocative in equivalent institutions that he had visited, and they should be a priority for Australia's museum. The upshot was the creation of the acclaimed dioramas that have been such a feature of the Memorial, and still are today.
Dyson ended up providing the Memorial with more than 270 works of art. Bean envisaged that the museum would have a special Dyson gallery – no other artist, he believed, captured the Digger as insightfully as Dyson. According to Michael McKernan, who was to become the deputy director of the Memorial and its historian, "Dyson gave all that he had to the AIF, to Bean and to his art, and created a series of drawings and paintings of extraordinary power and pathos”.

Dyson was not only Australia's first official war artist. To his admirers he remains Australia's finest ever war artist.
All this makes the present state of affairs at the Australian War Memorial inexplicable. As the Memorial confirmed earlier this month, the number of Dyson works on display there is zero. Charlie Bean would turn in his grave.
 The mate, 1919, by Will Dyson 

The Dyson gallery that Bean anticipated never eventuated, because by the time the Australian War Memorial was constructed another world war had begun, and subsequent conflicts have further restricted its capacity to display the World War I materials in its possession.
The Memorial, of course, faces endless challenges and onerous choices when it has far more items worthy of exhibit than it has space to display them. In the end, though, it boils down to a question of priorities. And the Memorial was given substantial additional funding to overhaul its World War I galleries for the centenary.

Dyson wrote about the war as superbly as he sketched Australian soldiers. His 1918 book Australia at War, a little-known classic, featured some of his finest drawings with a moving inscription alongside. Some of this art and writing – "Stretcher-Bearers" and "Dead Beat" spring to mind – would provide a more meaningful window into the real AIF experience than, say, the Memorial's sweeping Streeton landscapes where the war is practically non-existent.

The Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne has demonstrated a different perception of Dyson's significance. Its current exhibition illuminating Dyson's life and work will remain on show for a year.

 Will Dyson at work 
It's one thing to acknowledge that the Australian War Memorial has a difficult task in choosing which items to display in the limited space available. It's another thing altogether to find that in the month of Anzac Day, in the centenary year commemorat-ing the start of our finest war artist's work in France, and after a lavishly funded overhaul, the Memorial has ended up with none of his 270-plus works on display. What were they thinking?"

Will Dyson, National Portrait Gallery, Australia  
 A Person Looks At A Work Of Art/
 someone looks at something...