The bright white chalk spoil, immediately behind the wattle-revetted German trench, suggests the Somme front for ‘Dead Germans in a Trench’. The war has moved on leaving only its derelict victims; one of whom gracelessly buries his helmeted head in the chalky soil in anticipation of his return to dust. The second, lying grotesquely on his back, stares unseeing at the viewer, his mouth open. The blue-green of the corpse hints at putrefaction and is a marked contrast to the vivid blue of the sky above the parapet. Lurid and disturbing colours appear in several of Orpen's works on the aftermath of battle, and clearly reflect his sensitivity to the atmosphere and significance of what he had seen.


  • Title: Dead Germans in a Trench
  • Creator: Orpen, William (Sir) (RA)
  • Date Created: 1918
  • Location: Somme, France
  • Physical Dimensions: w762 x h914 mm (unframed)
  • Provenance: © IWM (Art.IWM ART 2955)
  • Type: painting
  • External Link: Imperial War Museum website
  • Medium: oil

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