Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson

Study for ‘Returning to the Trenches’


Not on display

Charcoal and crayon on paper
Support: 146 × 206 mm
Purchased 1959

Display caption

Nevinson served in the Royal Army Medical Corp during the first world war. This is a sketch for a painting exhibited in London in 1915. Nevinson argued that Futurist Art was the only way to express the ‘brutality of the emotions seen and felt on the present battlefields of Europe’.

The Daily News said the painting showed that ‘victory will be the new theme’ of the war. It was shown again in London in September 1916, a few months after the first performance of Hubert Parry’s now famous setting of Blake’s Jerusalem. This originally spoke of a different kind of victory.

Gallery label, December 2004

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


Not inscribed.
Charcoal and crayon, 5 3/4×8 1/8 (14·5×20·5).
Purchased from the Leicester Galleries (Grant-in-Aid) 1959.
Coll: Mrs Kathleen Nevinson; the Leicester Galleries.
Exh: Leicester Galleries, September–October 1916 (35).
Lit: Mervyn Levy, ‘C.R.W. Nevinson, Undertones of Peace’ in Studio, CLXII, 1961, p.51, repr. p.50.

Drawn on the back of part of a larger sketch for the same painting, ‘Returning to the Trenches’, which was exhibited with the London Group, March 1915 (89) and is now in the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (repr. Konody, 1917, pl.59). The painting had already been reproduced in the Daily Express for 25 February 1915 with a report of an interview with Nevinson: ‘I have tried to express the emotion produced by the apparent ugliness and dullness of modern warfare. Our Futurist technique is the only possible medium to express the crudeness, violence, and brutality of the emotions seen and felt on the present battlefields of Europe.... Modern art needs not beauty, or restraint, but vitality.’

There is another drawing of this composition in the V. & A. (8×9 1/2 in.) and a woodcut was reproduced in Blast, 11, July 1915, p.89. A finished gouache (5 1/2×8 in.) is in the Imperial War Museum.

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


You might like

In the shop