This project explores how Surrey and its people responded to the Great War.
In terms of the visual arts, the first two decades of the twentieth century were characterised by a combination of the startlingly new and the reassuringly old. It was a time of extraordinary creativity. Established artistic conventions had been challenged by “Modern Art” since the 1860s although new and experimental styles of painting were still of limited interest to the general public, and often met with critical and even hostile receptions.
Developments on the continent had little impact, although the influence of impressionism can be seen in the landscapes of Percy Harland-Fisher, who had spent time in France and Italy before settling in Camberley. Much of the painting and sculpture produced by Surrey artists however was still firmly rooted in the Victorian and Edwardian era and shows little evidence of the experience of the war, although Harland-Fisher painted many portraits of serving officers stationed in the area.
In 1916 the government set up the first British official war artists’ scheme, initially with the purpose of creating propaganda. However, in time artists were commissioned to record every aspect of life during the conflict. Although not an official war artist, the works of German born George Kenner (born Georg Kennerknect in Bavaria in 1887) provide a fascinating insight into one aspect of Surrey in the Great War. He was interned at Frith Hill Camp under the terms of the Alien Restriction Act and used his time in captivity to paint many views of life there.
See a gallery of George Kenner’s paintings of Frith Hill Camp via this link.