John Singer Sargent’s giant masterpiece, ‘Gassed’ being installed on a specially built wall in the National WWI Museum’s new Wylie Gallery (Photo: National WWI Museum & Memorial)

‘Gassed’ in US Midwest debut at WWI Museum

Posted on on 27 February 2018
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One of the best known First World War paintings, depicting the aftermath of a gas attack, is the focus for an exhibition that’s just opened at the National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City.

A visit to a British dressing station near Arras in August 1918 inspired the American artist, John Singer Sargent, to produce a work that’s monumental in both scale and impact.

Gassed, measuring 21 feet  by nine feet (6m x 3m), depicts a line of soldiers shuffling along a duckboard, their eyes bandaged after being blinded by mustard gas. All around lie their stricken comrades. Yet in the background, other soldiers play football on a fine summer evening, an indication that such scenes had become routine.

"Seeing this painting in person is an absolutely unique experience," said National WWI Museum and Memorial Senior Curator Doran Cart. "The size, scope, magnitude and artistry of Gassed certainly places the work as one of the most seminal in the modern era."

'Gassed', on loan from the Imperial War Museum in London, is being exhibited with reproductions of many of Sargent’s study drawings for the painting.

There are also original maps showing the location of the dressing station visited by Sargent, between Arras and Doullens, in his quest for inspiration.  At the time, the artist was struggling to find a subject for a British Government commission commemorating Anglo-American cooperation. What emerged was a harrowing illustration of the horrors of gas warfare.

"Gassed is a national treasure in the United Kingdom and bringing this magnificent painting to the National WWI Museum and Memorial stands as one of the most important achievements in our history, " said Dr Matthew Naylor, National WWI Museum President and CEO.

John Singer Sargent Gassed is at the National WWI Museum Memorial, Kansas City, Missouri, until 3 June 2018. Watch a video of museum staff installing the painting here.

'Gassed' is in the US for only the second time since its completion in 1919. It featured in a centennial exhibition of World War I American art in Philadelphia in the run-up to the 100th anniversary of US entry into the Great War.

Information & images: National WWI Museum & Memorial

Posted by: CN Editorial Team

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