Hope lies beyond the battlefield

Evelyn Chapman created this series of tempera paintings in the midst of blasted French battlefields in early 1919. They bear witness to the disasters of war and human sufferings, and herald the tragic ‘burden of the century’ to come.

Chapman’s accurate yet unexpectedly lyrical renditions of devastation and loss, along with the fragile red poppies – already a symbol of remembrance by then – springing up in ravaged soil, deliver a precious and everlasting message of resilience and regrowth which can fortify our hope in humanity.

 

Evelyn Chapman Old trench, French battlefield 1919. Art Gallery of New South Wales, gift of the artist’s daughter Pamela Thalben-Ball 1976. © Estate of the artist

National Art Archive | Art Gallery of New South Wales

This image, by an unknown photographer, shows Evelyn Chapman, the first Australian female artist to visit the battlefields, painting the ruins of the church at Villers-Bretonneux, France, c1919

Evelyn Chapman (Ruined church, Villers-Bretonneux) circa 1919. Art Gallery of New South Wales, bequest of Pamela Thalben-Ball 2015. © Estate of the artist

 

Evelyn Chapman (Trench ruins with poppies) circa 1919. Art Gallery of New South Wales, bequest of Pamela Thalben-Ball 2015. © Estate of the artist

Evelyn Chapman (Ruined church, Villers-Bretonneux) 1918–1919. Art Gallery of New South Wales, gift of the artist’s daughter Pamela Thalben-Ball 1976. © Estate of the artist

Evelyn Chapman (Ruined church with poppies, Villers-Bretonneux) circa 1919. Art Gallery of New South Wales, bequest of Pamela Thalben-Ball 2015. © Estate of the artist

Evelyn Chapman (Interior of a ruined church, France) circa 1919. Art Gallery of New South Wales, bequest of Pamela Thalben-Ball 2015. © Estate of the artist