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Over the Top

KENNINGTON, Eric Henri (1888 - 1960)

Over the Top - Eric Kennington
Over the Top - Eric Kennington

Date: 1917

Media: lithograph on paper

Acquired: 1919; Presented by Ministry of Information

Accession Number: NMW A 13169

Collection: The Great War: Britain's Efforts and Ideals

In this work, Kennington captures the moment soldiers scramble ‘over the top’, out of a trench into no-man’s land to attack the enemy trench line.  Many were met almost immediately by a hail of gunfire, causing great loss of life.  Kennington’s works have a particular human interest. Having been a soldier, he was able to draw the images with knowledge and accuracy.

Showing soldiers in training and at the Front, one journalist described these prints as capturing ‘the spirit of our new, young army’.  Kennington was probably chosen for this subject as he had himself enlisted with the 13th (Kensington) Battalion London Regiment and fought on the Western Front, France, 1914-1915.  He was wounded and discharged as unfit in 1915.  These prints do not attempt to depict the horror and tragedy of war, as in most of his war art, Kennington instead champions the common soldier.

Kennington was born in Chelsea, London, the son of a well-known portrait artist. He studied at St Paul’s Art School, the Lambeth School of Art and the City and Guilds School. He was appointed an official war artist from 1917-1919 and again in 1940-1943, painting portraits of sailors and airmen.

This work forms part of the portfolio The Great War: Britain's Efforts and Ideals, a series of 66 lithographic prints commissioned by the Ministry of Information in 1917. The series provide a broad and fascinating representation of Britain’s war objectives, military activities and effort on the Home Front.

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