How did New Zealand artists, both those who were specially commissioned and those who volunteered as soldiers, record their experiences in this war? Two of the artists – Nugent Welch and George Butler – who were official war artists have left us an incredible legacy of paintings, now part of the National War Art Collection. Nugent Welch enlisted as a soldier and served for nearly two years before he was made a war artist. He was already a well-known landscape artist in Wellington and he used these skills at the Front to create some great studies of the effect of war on men and on the land. George Butler, who had spent several years in New Zealand, was specially commissioned by the army to paint the actions of New Zealand troops in the last two months of the war. He also created some large scale studies of actions which were designed for a museum on World War I which was to be set up in Wellington. It was, however, never completed due to post-war economic problems.
A third war artist was Alfred Pearse, and although his paintings are documented, there is no record of them surviving, probably because they showed too realistically the horrors of the Western Front.
Horace Moore-Jones enrolled as a soldier and served on Gallipoli. He was soon recognised as an artist and asked to paint the landscape as maps were short. He is famous for his painting of Simpson and his donkey for which the model was a New Zealander, Dick Henderson, although Moore-Jones believed that he was painting an Australian, John Kirkpatrick Simpson. He completed this after his return to New Zealand when he was on a lecture tour for the RSA with his Gallipoli paintings.
Also included is the work of soldier artists such as Arthur Lloyd, G.E. Woolley, C. Trevithick, John Weeks, Archibald Nicoll, Francis McCrackan, Robert Johnson and W.H. Gummer, and Walter Bowring who painted the Home Front.
Supporting the text are reproductions of paintings by these various artists, many of which have not previously been seen by the New Zealand public.