C R W Nevinson: the scale of the road

CRW Nevinson. The Road from Arras to Bapaume, 1917. c. Imperial War Museum

This road, from Arras in the Pas-de-Calais to Bapaume, is very like the section roads that grid off the prairies.  Landscape painters in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan tend to paint from the road, looking into the section, rather than at the roads themselves.  When roads do appear, they are tangential, inadvertant, rather than the rigid registration of the land that they are. 

The Nevinson painting is both from the road and of the road.  By the third year of the Great War, fought to end all wars, tangents, the picturesque, beauty as the subject of art and landscape as something life-sustaining were gone.  Land had become, as in this painting, mechanical and antagonistic.  Thus does war poison perception.  The road, like the war, seems endless.

Stephanie Whitedirt, painting, war