London’s Estorick Collection will reopen in January 2017, after a five-month refurbishment, with an exhibition entitled War in the Sunshine, revealing the little-known role of British forces in Italy during the First World War.
Among the items on show are paintings by official war artist Sydney Carline and some 50 images by war photographers William Brunell and Ernest Brooks.
Carline was remarkable among the artists of the First World War in that his first works were produced while he was serving as a fighter pilot flying a Sopwith Camel in northern Italy.
Brooks had been an official photographer on the Western Front and had captured iconic images of British forces on the Somme and at Passchendaele.
He was assigned to Italy in 1917-1918 and showed a great ability to portray the plight of front-line combat troops and dispossessed Italian civilians scratching a living behind the Anglo-Italian lines.
Brunell’s works are distinguished by the photographer’s ability to capture the drama of northern Italy’s mountainous terrain and the frontline along the River Piave, north of Venice.
He also produced intimate and sympathetic images of many of the young Italian women who were employed by Britain’s Army Service Corps, unloading railway wagons, washing British army uniforms and preparing meals.
The exhibition recalls a campaign that is often ignored. In October 1917 around 120,000 British troops were shipped to Italy to help stop advancing German and Austro-Hungarian forces.
British soldiers would also play a significant part in Italian victories in the Battle of the Solstice (June 1918) and on the Piave in the Vittorio Vento campaign of October-November 1918.
Five squadrons of the RAF and 40 batteries of artillery were also deployed in Italy.
The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art is renowned for its core of Futurist works. It comprises pieces by many of the most prominent Italian artists of the Modernist era.
War in the Sunshine runs from 13 January until 19 March 2017.