5. Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson (1889-1946) Destroyed Canal, Ytres oil on canvas, 1918, signed and dated in black lower left,
612 x 460 mm (24 x 18 1/8 in)
Exhibited in Nevinson's second one-man show 'An Exhibition of Pictures of War by C.R.W. Nevinson', Ernest Brown and Phillips, the Leicester Galleries, London, March 1918. No.11 in the catalogue. Purchased by J. Baird, 37 Queens Court, London SW.
Illustrated: 'The Great War Fourth Year', Paintings by C.R.W. Nevinson with an essay by J.E. Crawford Fitch, Grant Richards Ltd, London, 1918, plate 5.
Literature: Discussed in Nevinson's 1937 war memoir 'Paint and Prejudice', 'However, I was working at last, and from here I did such paintings as ‘Road from Arras to Bapaume,’ the ‘Survivors at Arras,’ the ‘Very Lights at Monchy,’ the ‘Roads of France,’ the ‘Destroyed Canal at Ytres,’ the ‘Hindenburg Line’ and ‘Brigade Headquarters’.
The Battle of Canal du Nord was part of a general Allied offensive against German positions on the Western Front during the Hundred Days Offensive of World War I. This critical battle took place in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, along an incomplete portion of the Canal du Nord and on the outskirts of Cambrai between the 27th of September and the 1st of October 1918.
The construction of the Canal du Nord began in 1913 and was intended to link the Oise River to the Dunkirk-Scheldt Canal. However, with the outbreak of the First World War construction was halted and the work was left in varying stages of completion. The canal was approximately 40 yards (37 m) wide, with a western bank that was between 10 and 15 feet (3.0 and 4.6 m) high and an eastern bank that was approximately 5 feet (1.5 m) high.
During their retreat, the Germans made the area along the canal north of Sains-lès-Marquion virtually impassable by taking advantage of the naturally swampy ground and deliberately damming and flooding the entire area. The only passable ground was to the south where a small 4,000-yard (3,700 m) section of the canal between Sains-lès-Marquion and Mœuvres remained largely dry on account of its incomplete state. Even in a partially excavated state the dry section of the canal was still a significant obstacle. This painting shows the destroyed bridges which blocked the Allies path across to German territory until they successfully managed to cross in the now infamous Battle of Canal du Nord.
The composition of 'Destroyed Canal, Ytres' has strong similarities to 'Road from Arras to Bapaume', painted just one year before in 1917. The two paintings were both exhibited in Nevinson's 1918 exhibition at the Leicester Galleries. The perspective of road and canal are treated almost identically with the immediate foreground dropping away and leading the onlooker’s eye towards a vanishing point at the top of the canvas. In both cases the image is broken by several parallel lines in the upper part of the subject.
Nevinson was appointed as an official war artist in 1917 and in July of that year was sent to France. In 'Paint and Prejudice' Nevinson described how he was initially posted to the Chateau d'Harcourt from where he travelled to Etaples, Montreuil, Calais, Abbeville and Paris. After this he was attached to the 4th Division at St. Nicolas, between the old Hindenburg line and Arras. He wrote 'I was working at last, and from here i did such paintings as the 'Road from Arras to Baupaume', the 'Roads of France', the 'Destroyed Canal at Ytres', the 'Hindenburg Line' and 'Brigade Headquarters', pictures which were destined to be distrubuted throughout the world'.
Nevinson was invited to do a second exhibition at the Leicester Galleries in March 1918 of war paintings produced during this period when he was working as an official war artist. Other works exhibited in the 1918 exhibition were: 'A Group of Soldiers', 'Over the Lines', 'After a Push', 'The Road from Arras to Bapaume', 'Swooping down on a Hostile Plane', 'Reliefs at Dawn', 'Gun in Elevation' and 'Paths of Glory' (all are now in the Imperial War Museum, London).
est. £80000 – £120000