Percy John Delf Smith, Death Marches (1914-1918), 1919, etching on paper. Gift of Simon and Caroline Davis, 2017 (60-014.05). Photo: Bernard Clark
The industrialized warfare of the First World War led to the unprecedented destruction of cities, landscapes, and human lives. Among those who experienced this horror were artists, who witnessed the devastation around them with an attentive eye and, often, a pencil and paper in hand. This exhibition of prints by British artists of the era offers a range of imagery documenting life during the war, from an air raid-ready London to the abandoned duck-walk in a swampy Belgian field, through a variety of printmaking techniques. Featuring a selection of recent acquisitions, the show honours, with chilling beauty, the hundredth anniversary of the conclusion of the Great War.
Percy John Delf Smith was a British etcher and letterer. He served as a gunner in the First World War. His etching “Death Marches” was part of a seven-part series, “The Dance of Death 1914–1918.” that explored the spectre of Death following British soldiers. After the war, Smith was commissioned to create the lettering for the Canadian National Vimy Memorial at Vimy Ridge. His work listed the names of 11,285 Canadian soldiers killed in France with no known grave.
Printmakers at War, 1914–1918 runs from Aug. 25 to Dec. 2 in the Frances K. Smith Gallery of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.