Gassed by John Singer Sargent, 1919

'Gassed' by John Singer Sargent, 1919

Famous 'horrors of war' painting
Driving through Hyde in Manchester / North Cheshire, I saw a billboard carrying this as a poster. It is John Singer Sargent's well-known painting 'Gassed', depicting soldiers blinded and otherwise disabled by mustard gas during the First World War.

It is reproduced and displayed in this way and location as part of the 'Art Everywhere' project, which, as the name suggests, is an effort to bring art to everyone, by taking it out of museums and galleries and placing it, well, everywhere.

The original of this is held at the Imperial War Museum in London. It is in fact a huge and hugely impressive painting: some 20 feet across, and therefore perhaps at something approximating to life size on the billboard.

On a personal note, family legend has it that my paternal grandad, Thomas Riley, from Glossop, Derbyshire, survived both a mustard gas attack and bullet in the arm in WW1.

Of course, it is hard to look at this, now, and not think about the events going on in Syria. Not that one would wish to argue that there is something lovely and cuddly about other kinds of weapons. However, the coincidence is impossible to ignore.

What's that thing they say? - that the one thing we can learn from history is that we don't learn from history.