In its first major Prints auction since the record sale of Edvard Munchs Madonna for £1,252,000 in July, Bonhams
is featuring a dramatic image by the renowned First World War artist, C. R.W. Nevinson, which was recreated in the classic anti-war film Oh What a Lovely War.
Nerves of An Army, from 1918, is archetypal Nevinson. It shows four soldiers perched at the top of a telegraph pole, the angles of the mens bodies juxtaposed with the poles cross struts and the communication lines they are mending. So stark is this image that Richard Attenborough used it in his directorial debut film, the classic, Oh What A Lovely War. Certain images in my movies have been directly influenced by art, he said. Nevinsons etching of four soldiers up a telegraph pole during the First World War is painstakingly recreated in my first film as a director. It is estimated at £12,000-18,000.
In strong contrast to Nevinsons war themed work is The Wave, a beautiful and powerful evocation of the sea. This exceptionally rare print from 1917 has never been offered at auction before and is estimated at £20,000-30,000.
A further piece from the war years, the dramatic lithographic poster, Now Back the Bayonets with its jagged brutalism is priced at £8,000-10,000.
In the immediate post war years Nevinsons work became softer and more rounded in style as seen in two works from that period, From a Paris Window, 1920-1, (estimate £800-1,200) and Sunday Evening, 1924, (estimate £600-900). Here the robotic inhumanity of war has been replaced by a vision of peace and harmony.
Nevinson (1899-1946) was heavily influenced by Italian Futurism and his creative response to the First World War, in which he served briefly in the Royal Army Medical Corps, used Futurist techniques to great effect. His era-defining image, La Mitrailleuse, now in the Tate Collection also came to define his artistic legacy.