Sir David Muirhead Bone

Sir David Muirhead Bone (British, 1876-1953)

Etcher, draughtsman and painter. Sir David Muirhead Bone was born in Glasgow in 1876, the son of a journalist. He is best known for his work as official artist on the Western Front during the First World War, where he worked quickly in pencil and chalk to produce haunting images, many of which were then printed by the War Office as lithographs on his return home. His early training as an architect led to a fascination for observing buildings:

His special province was the rendering of great masses of buildings under construction or demolition, with all the attendant paraphernalia, in such a manner that out of superficial chaos there emerged a beautiful and ordered design. (quoted in Harries: 10).

Far from being a mere topographer, his images are amongst the most evocative of the War. Bone was both long and short sighted at the same time, which in part explains his meticulous detail and he was often dubbed ‘the Scottish Piranesi.’

These lithographs from the series titled War Drawings, printed in a variety of hues, were issued by authority of the War Office in 1917 as a limited luxury edition of signed proofs. Each is signed in pencil by the artist, signed in the stone and stamped with his monogram. Of exceptional quality, they capture the essence of Muirhead Bone’s style at its very best. The subjects range from tin-hatted infantrymen busily building shelters to beautiful, yet desolate, ruins in the French countryside.

References: Meiron and Susie Harries, The War Artists. British Official War Art of the Twentieth Century, 1983.