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Exhibition highlights forgotten aspect of Britain's First World War
William Joseph Brunell, An Italian Female Worker Employed by the British Army, Lying on 18 Pounder Shells, November, 1918. Courtesy: Imperial War Museum.

LONDON.- Following its five-month refurbishment, London’s Estorick Collection reopened with War in the Sunshine, a new exhibition of 75 rarely shown artworks revealing the little-known role of British forces in Italy during the First World War. On special loan from the Imperial War Museum, they include 24 drawings, paintings by official war artist Sydney Carline, and some 50 images by war photographers W.J. Brunell and Ernest Brooks. War in the Sunshine runs from 13 January until 19 March 2017.

Highlighting this forgotten aspect of Britain’s First World War, the exhibition showcases the enthralling drawings and paintings of Sydney Carline (1888-1929), first produced in his own time as a fighter pilot flying a Sopwith Camel in northern Italian skies, and then as an official war artist attached to the RAF.

Ernest Brooks (1878-1941), an official photographer on the Western Front, is best known for his iconic images of British forces on the Somme and at Passchendaele. The less well-known photographs he took during his official assignment to Italy in 1917-1918 sensitively portray the plight of front-line combat troops and dispossessed Italian civilians scratching a living behind the Anglo-Italian lines.

The photographs taken by William Joseph Brunell (1878-1960) reveal an instinctive feel for the stunning views of northern Italy’s mountainous terrain and of ruins dotting the bleak front line along the River Piave north of Venice. He also produced intimate and sympathetic images of many of the young Italian women employed by the British Army Service Corps, unloading railway wagons of supplies, washing British Army uniforms and preparing meals.

War in the Sunshine is curated by Dr Jonathan Black, an expert in British Art and the First World War. He is Senior Research Fellow in History of Art, Kingston University, London. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue with essays on Sydney Carline’s First World War by Jonathan Black and exploring Italy’s experience of the First World War by historian Mark Thompson (author of The White War: Life and Death on the Italian Front, 1915-1919, published in 2009).

Also included in the exhibition is a series of works by London-based contemporary artist Keith Roberts, who is responding to the themes and concerns of the show.

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