Every so often I decide to paint a subject which is different to my usual repertoire. Sometimes it can be very personal. “The Response” is a recent painting that has a number of meanings but rather than me explain them all in this post, I’ve decided to leave the viewer to have their own thoughts for now.
“The Response” is a very moving World War One memorial commissioned by Sir George Renwick, a local ship owner. He gave the memorial to the city to commemorate the raising of the World War I Commercial Battalions of the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers by the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce and also to celebrate the safe return of his five sons from the Great War.
The monument is an emotionally charged depiction of the call to arms in 1914. The life sized 5th Northumberland Fusiliers are patriotically marching to war, led by drummer boys and an angel. Various well-wishers, parents, wives and children, some cheering, some weeping gather around the procession.
When I was a little boy, I would be captivated by this scene of soldiers and their families when my grandma took me through the town to see the Saturday morning matinee. The monument cropped up in a conversation about sculptures recently so I decided to make some observational sketchbook drawings in my moleskine of this magnificent sculpture. I became more and more intrigued by what I was drawing to the point of painting a very large 40″ x 30″ studio watercolour.
The more personal aspect of my painting of “The Response” is the group of figures on the right. I’ve painted myself, my daughter Louise and her children Ewan and Anya. The last soldier behind Louise is my Great Grandfather Thomas Reed who served in the conflict. He was shot in the chest but miraculously survived the Great War. He used to carve ships figureheads for a living and was a gifted draughtsman.
The painting can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.