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Smith, Percy John
Whither? Whence? Duck-walk in France Whither? Whence? Duck-walk in France
1918 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.

The sketches that Smith made at Thiepval formed the basis for the two series titled Drypoints of War, one containing twelve images and one containing sixteen images, both of which were printed while he was on leave at Eastney Barracks. His diary entries from the beginning of 1917 attest to the desolate landscape that surrounded him. Here, the barren battlefield stretches to the horizon, with only a seemingly endless narrow duckwalk as the sole means of escape. In contrast to other scenes in this series, which contain images of the village of Thiepval, this print captures the wasted countryside of every European battlefield.

In contrast to the other war-time prints, this small scene devastates through the sheer desolation of the landscape. The title, suggesting journeying to and fro across this bleak land, only reinforces the futility of possible escape.

 
Smith, Percy John
London, England 1882-London, England 1948 London, England 1882-London, England 1948
Whither? Whence? Duck-walk in France Whither? Whence? Duck-walk in France
1918 1918
drypoint on paper drypoint on paper
20.3 x 16.5 cm
Gift of Simon and Caroline Davis, 2017 Gift of Simon and Caroline Davis, 2017
60-014.06

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