Dead Germans in a Trench

William Orpen1918

Imperial War Museums

Imperial War Museums

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.

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  • Title: Dead Germans in a Trench
  • Creator: Orpen, William (Sir) (RA)
  • Date Created: 1918
  • Location: Somme, France
  • related people or organisations: Imperial German Army
  • provenance: Department of Information commission
  • period: First World War
  • Subject: trench/defences,  death,  military personnel,  bomb damage, Western Front 1914-1918,  German Army 1914-1918,  British Army 1914-1918
  • Physical Dimensions: w762 x h914 mm (unframed)
  • Donor information: Gift of the artist, 1918
  • Provenance: © IWM (Art.IWM ART 2955)
  • Type: painting
  • External Link: Imperial War Museum website
  • Medium: oil


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