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Smith, Percy John
Death Marches (from the Dance of Death series) Death Marches (from the Dance of Death series)
1914-1918 1914-1918

Percy John Smith, RDI (Royal Designer for Industry), served in the trenches with the Royal Marines Artillery in France and later in Belgium. He was at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and surreptitiously made drawings of his war experiences while at the Front. Among his most notable projects was the four year commission for the lettering of the Canadian War Memorial at Vimy Ridge.

This etching, number 2 of 7, comes from a series entitled “The Dance of Death”, in which the skeletal figure of death haunts numerous scenes of World War I. Here, the enshrouded Death marches along a wall bordering the rows of the faceless soldiers, a constant companion to them and almost equally strict in his regimented forward movement. This series draws upon the medieval imagery of the Dance of Death, in which Death plagues representatives of all tiers of society in a reminder that this experience escapes no one. Smith’s series is unique in that it limits Death’s audience to soldiers. That this etching was issued after the war indicates that such anti-war imagery was condemned by the office of propaganda, which had put into place a code of official censorship during the period of hostilities.

 
Smith, Percy John
London, England 1882-London, England 1948 London, England 1882-London, England 1948
Death Marches (from the Dance of Death series) Death Marches (from the Dance of Death series)
1914-1918 1914-1918
Etching on paper Etching on paper
20.1 x 25.0 cm
Gift of Simon and Caroline Davis, 2017 Gift of Simon and Caroline Davis, 2017
60-014.05

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