Charles Sargeant Jagger

No Man’s Land


Image released under

License this image

Not on display

Charles Sargeant Jagger 1885–1934
Object: 1264 × 3075 × 90 mm, 588 kg
Presented by the Council of British School at Rome 1923

Display caption

There was an enormous output of memorial sculpture in the early 1920s as every community sought to raise a memorial to the men and women they had lost in the First World War. These ranged from representations of traditionally heroic soldiers to simpler, more abstract forms that acknowledged, perhaps, the unspeakable qualities of the war. The most famous was the Cenotaph, designed by Edwin Lutyens, in London’s Whitehall. Jagger became one of the leading memorial sculptors. Here he shows a listening post in No Man’s Land, where a soldier hides among the bodies of his dead comrades in order to listen to the enemy close by.

Gallery label, September 2016

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Catalogue entry

N01354 NO MAN'S LAND 1919–20
Inscr. ‘C. Sargeant Jagger Sc.’ b.r.
Bronze relief, 50×130 (127×330).
Presented by the Council of the British School at Rome 1923.
Lit: D. S. MacColl, ‘Two of the Young’ in Burlington Magazine, XI, 1922, pp.84–9, the plaster version repr. pl.1b.
Repr: Tate Gallery Illustrations, 1928, pl.130.

The artist's sister, Edith Jagger, wrote (28 October 1958) that the first sketch for ‘No Man's Land’ was begun in Sheffield where he was recovering from a serious wound in the early summer of 1918: ‘He set to work immediately - using plasticine and various oddments to get out a small sketch model: Before leaving him in the morning I helped him to a high chair in front of my big easel - and there he stayed until I returned some hours later to help him down!’

The final relief was executed in London as a commission during the artist's tenure of the British School of Rome Scholarship in 1919–20. He was allowed to hold it in England as he was working on a relief for the Imperial War Museum at the same time. In a letter to Yockney at the I.W.M. he wrote on 5 August 1918: ‘I have several ideas taken from actual battle experience, some of which are already landmarks in the history of the Empire, which I would like to have the opportunity of recording in clay.’ One of these is the Battle of Ypres, 1914, the plaster of which is in the I.W.M., the other is ‘No Man's Land’. A further letter to Yockney of 11 December 1918, at the I.W.M., says: ‘I am enclosing a photo of another sketch I have made which you have not yet seen. The subject is a listening post in No Man's Land and shows the sentry on his post, which for obvious reasons is often chosen amongst a group of dead.’ A bronze cast of this first sketch was included in the Memorial exhibition, 1935 (7).

The original full-size plaster model included the following inscription from ‘To the Vanguard’ by Beatrix Brice-Miller:

O, little mighty band that stood for England That with your bodies for a living shield Guarded her slow awakening.

The lettering was suppressed in the bronze cast. After the bronze was cast the artist appears to have done some further work on the original model as he wrote to Blaikeley (I.W.M., 14 November 1933): ‘I have the completed full size model of my relief “No Man's Land”. This model has never been executed in permanent material in its finished state and I am anxious that some time or other this should be done as I consider it the best of my war sculptures.’ The model was included in the Memorial exhibition, 1935 (8), and was purchased for the I.W.M. in 1936. However, the only difference seems to be that it includes the inscription. During the same months as the Memorial exhibition another bronze, either of the sketch or of the finished version, was exhibited at the R.A., 1935 (1657).

When the Tate Gallery version was acquired it was built into the wall of Gallery XXIII. At the beginning of the war in 1939 it was covered over with protective boarding and has not been uncovered since.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I

You might like