In Flanders' Fields


The photograph this painting is based on was taken exactly 100 years ago at the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele), in West Flanders, Belgium.

Fought by the British and Canadians against the German Empire, the battle took place on the Western Front from July to November 1917, for control of the ridges south and east of the city.

Passchendaele lay on the last ridge east of Ypres, 5 mi (8.0 km) from a railway junction at Roulers, which was vital to the supply system of the German 4th army. The next stage of the Allied plan was an advance to Thourout – Couckelaere to close the German-controlled railway running through Roulers and Thourout.

It was hell on Earth. There are some battles in the Great War which were remembered as being slaughterhouses and Passchendaele was one of them. I remember watching a veteran of the war being interviewed and he said that if you were posted to Passchendaele you immediately assumed that you were done for. You basically said farewell to all your friends and family and prepared for the end.

I painted this companion landscape some time ago. I imagined a survivor of the battle heading home on leave and coming across this copse of trees. I called this painting Bois Épais which means Sombre Grove.

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