After the battle of Hamel on 4 July 1918, official war artist Arthur Streeton produced a number of sketches looking across the town of Corbie towards Le Hamel. These sketches of the Somme Valley, with its leafy, green trees and meandering river, later became the basis for Streeton’s depiction of the ferocious opening artillery barrage of the 8 August battle on the Somme. The artist had taken up a position above the Somme Valley near Corbie, France, which provided the best view of an area heavily fought over by Australians in 1918. Streeton, who was some distance from the action, observed, ‘True pictures of Battlefields are very quiet looking things. There’s nothing much to be seen – everybody & thing is hidden and camouflaged.’ At first glance the painting appears to be an idyllic rendering of the French countryside, but closer inspection reveals the effects of heavy artillery bombardments on the landscape.


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