Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Art work from George Edmond Butler also in Passchendaele

For the first time in Flanders, the art work of George Edmond Butler will be on display in the Memorial Museum Passhendaele 1917 together with the art work of Helen Pollock. The Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 is very greatful to the New Zealand National Archives who give full cooperation to bring his work to Belgium.
George Edmund Butler was a landscape and portrait painter specialising in oils and watercolours, and an Official War Artist for New Zealand during World War One.
Born 15 January 1872 in Southampton, England, George Edmund Butler emigrated to Wellington in 1883 with his parents. Between 1898 and 1900 Butler undertook further study abroad in England, in Paris, and the Antwerp Academy in Belgium.
In 1900 Butler returned to Wellington and exhibited also in Christchurch. In 1901 he settled in Dunedin but trying to make a living as a professional artist was difficult. In 1905 he returned to England. Because of his reputation as an artist and his New Zealand connections he was approached to be an official NZ war artist. He was appointed with the honorary rank of captain by the NZEF in September 1918. Joining the New Zealand Division in France later that same month, he carried a sketchbook in which he made pencil drawings of actual operations and war scenes, often under fire. These sketches were later used as the basis for his paintings. After the Armistice he returned to sketch all the New Zealand battlefields in Belgium and France. Butler completed a large number of paintings and drawings during this period.
After being demobilised on 31 December 1918, Butler was privately commissioned by Colonel R. Heaton Rhodes (Cabinet Minister) and Major General Sir Andrew Russell (NZ Divisional Commander) to do a further series of senior officer portraits and a number of large landscapes of NZ exploits on the western front. These works were finally purchased by the NZ Government in September 1921.
Butler never returned to New Zealand. He died in London on 9 August 1936.
It has been said that Butler’s war paintings capture the realities of war through a civilian’s eyes, mirroring the view of the New Zealand citizen soldier. There is no glory, only the stark depiction of waste and loss. They are an evocative indictment of war that have remained largely unseen by the. They give also an unknown view in color of places well known in the history of the New Zealand Division in Flanders where only few pictures have been token.
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