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Bomberg’s painting commemorates an incident in the First World War, in which a company of Canadian soldiers dug tunnels under the German trenches to lay explosives. The operation was in preparation for a surprise assault on the enemy defences at Ypres. This work was a preliminary study for a painting commissioned by the Canadian Government for a War Memorial exhibition. It was criticised at the time as a ‘Futurist abortion’, although Bomberg had compromised the radical abstraction of his earlier Vorticist work for a more representational style.

July 2007