The Great War: Britain’s Efforts and Ideals

Abergavenny Museum & Chepstow Museum, 18th Sep to 6th Jan 2019, Admission Free

First World War propaganda prints by celebrated artists of the day go on display at Abergavenny Museum & Chepstow Museum an exhibition across two sites in Monmouthshire’s Museums in partnership with Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales.

As soldiers marched to war in summer 1914, most of them expected to be back home within a few weeks and surely by Christmas. But instead, fighting continued and intensified over years and the First World War was fought not just by soldiers on battlefields, but also by citizens at home.

“The Great War: Britain’s Efforts and Ideals” a striking set of prints, being shown now in exhibitions at Abergavenny and Chepstow Museums in Monmouthshire, was commissioned by the British Government in 1917 as propaganda. After three years of hard fighting and unprecedented loss of life, the images were intended to encourage a war-weary public and raise support for the war effort. They show modern political propaganda in its early stages.

Designed in two sets of portfolios, “Ideals” and “Efforts” the ideals addressed the reasons why Britain was at war and what it aimed to achieve. These images are dramatic and symbolic and use historical and mythological figures to express ideas. The “Efforts” prints illustrate some of the activities of the war effort. Nine artists were commissioned to produce six prints, each taking on a different theme, such as Making Soldiers, Building Aircraft or Work on the Land.

As images of propaganda, they purposely avoided showing the horrors and atrocities of war, as was typical of the work of the official war artists. The works, by some of the most celebrated artists of the day such as Augustus John and Frank Brangwyn, are very different, reflecting the varying trends in British art at the time. The artists did not have full artistic freedom, they were given their subjects and each image had to pass censorship regulations. The prints were produced as a limited edition of 200 and were first exhibited in London in July 1917. This set of prints was donated to Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales in 1919 by the Ministry of Information.

The exhibitions run until January 6th 2019 so there’s plenty of time to see the whole collection by visiting the two Museums.