Returning to the Trenches, 1914
oil on canvas
51.2 x 76.8 cm
Gift of the Massey Collection of English Painting, 1946
National Gallery of Canada (no. 4800)
© Bridgeman Art Library
The British artist C.R.W. Nevinson's association with Futurism is clearly apparent in this painting. The massed forms of the marching troops express the dynamic energy of the war machine, which the Futurists glorified as a means of cleansing the modern world of the moribund past. Nevinson became an official war artist while serving as a volunteer ambulance driver during the First World War, and he was deeply affected by what he saw at the front. Though he depicted images of combat, he did not glorify destruction, portraying instead dehumanized soldiers who were part of "the great machine that is modern war." Having observed the suffering and carnage of war, he broke with the dogmas of the Italian Futurists in 1919.