Archive, Exhibitions

British Forces in World War One Italy Shown at Refurbished Estorick

An Italian Female Worker Employed by the British Army, Lying on 18 Pounder Shells, November 1918 © William Joseph Brunell, courtesy Imperial War Museum

Following its five-month refurbishment, London’s Estorick Collection reopens in January 2017 with War in the Sunshine, a new exhibition of 75 rarely shown artworks revealing the little-known role of British forces in Italy during the First World War.

On special loan from the Imperial War Museum, the exhibition includes some 50 images by war photographers W.J. Brunell and Ernest Brooks.

Ernest Brooks (1878-1941), an official photographer on the Western Front, is best known for his images of British forces on the Somme and at Passchendaele.

The less well-known photographs he took during his official assignment to Italy in 1917-1918, have not been exhibited since 1919, and portray the plight of front-line combat troops and dispossessed Italian civilians scratching a living behind the Anglo-Italian lines.

An Italian Female Worker Employed by the British Army, Lying on 18 Pounder Shells, November 1918

An Young Italian Woman Employed by the British Army in Italy,
November 1918 © William Joseph Brunell, courtesy Imperial War Museum

The photographs taken by William Joseph Brunell (1878-?) reveal an instinctive feel for the views of northern Italy’s mountainous terrain and of ruins dotting the bleak front line along the River Piave north of Venice.

He also produced images of many of the young Italian women employed by the British Army Service Corps, unloading railway wagons of supplies, washing British Army uniforms and preparing meals.

War in the Sunshine is curated by Dr Jonathan Black, an expert in British Art and the First World War and a Senior Research Fellow in History of Art, Kingston University, London.

War in the Sunshine runs from 13 January until 19 March 2017. More information is available here.