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Conference Papers
Conference Papers

Paul Gough

Invited paper delivered April 15th 2002, at Stirling University Conference on War and Visual Culture, organised by Group for War and Visual Culture (GWACS) Westminster University.

'Artistic records’ – the Regimental Artist, Historical Narrative and Hidden Commemoration

The work of ‘regimental artists’ is often derided for being jingoistic, irrelevant and predicated on pictorial languages rooted in 19th century battle art. However, a core of professional painters are regularly employed by the British armed services to record, and occasionally commemorate, contemporary and past feats of arms, as well as more mundane service duties such as peacekeeping tours, ceremonial work, and ‘keeping the army in the public eye’ duties. Their work is largely unseen by a non-military public and yet it contributes to the commemorative rhetoric of the British military.

Drawing on the author’s own experiences as a commissioned artist, this paper examines the work of such artists as Terence Cuneo, Ken Howard, Joan Wankling and Keith Holmes. The paper will takes as its principle case study the work of military artist David Rowlands, recently commissioned by the Permanent Joint Headquarters (UK) as their official artist to record the British build-up in the Arabian Gulf.

In 1999 Rowlands was commissioned to record the British Army’s role at Drumcree, Northern Ireland.

The paper will examine the visual and formal language of recent military painting, particularly the tensions between illustration and interpretation, between factual and technical accuracy and historical verity. By examining the work of these artists we will attempt to gauge the commemorative value of battle painting in the past forty years.