|ARTIST:||Peter McIntyre OBE.|
|DATES:||New Zealand 1910 - 1995|
|TITLE:||Mobile Showers Beside an Ancient Well, Tunisia, 1943|
|MEDIUM:||Graphite on paper|
|SIZE:||19 x 31 cm|
Ref: Watercolour illustrated in Jennifer Haworth, The Art of War, NCWA 80, p. 136
PETER McINTYRE: WAR ARTIST
Dr. Warren Feeney
Peter McIntyre was appointed war artist for the Second New Zealand Expeditionary Forces (2nd NZEF) by General Bernard Freyberg on 1 January 1941. As a graduate from the Slade School of Art in London (1931-1934), he was ideally suited to the task of recording the 2nd NZEF’s campaigns in Crete, North Africa and Italy. The teaching programme at the Slade stressed life drawing and draughtsmanship based upon the ‘old masters,’ including Raphael, Rembrandt and Watteau, encouraging students to draw vigorously, building up sketches by observing the broad planes of the model. Like all undergraduates, McIntyre began by copying Antique casts before working in the life room and drawing the figure by means of ‘ovals or eggs.’ He thrived in this environment, graduating with prizes in composition and figure drawing. McIntyre recalled: "At the Slade you really learned to draw in a classical manner and you know I’ve always been convinced that no one can be a really good painter until he’s learned how to draw and to draw well and truly." (Encounter, 1976, Wellington: Television New Zealand Archives.)
He was also conscious that he belonged to an impressive tradition of Slade graduates whose proficiency accounted for a significant number of war artists during the First World War. The list included Augustus John, Paul Nash and William Orpen. Certainly, in his sketches of New Zealand officers and soldiers, McIntyre’s training is evident in his handling of volume and mass, the clarification of the underlying structure of his figures and the complexity of their character and personality.
McIntyre’s earliest drawings are of the New Zealand soldier’s life in Maadi Camp. Reproduced in the army publication, Parade, Freyberg also valued and encouraged the comradeship that McIntyre captured in these works. Just as war artist Christopher Nevinson had revealed the distinctive personality of the British soldier, McIntyre rose to the challenge in sketches of New Zealanders often brewing tea or playing cards. In these and other drawings, McIntyre also rediscovered his identity. He later recalled his experience of meeting a conscript, the first New Zealander he had seen in nine years absence, on the train to Aldershot in 1940: "His hair was cut short above the ears with crisp waves on top... His face was drawn as if he had been looking into the sun... 'Gooday, [sic] how’s she going?' he said, and my nine years of exile melted away." (Peter McIntyre, The Painted Years, Wellington: A. H. & A. W. Reed, 1962, p. 57.)
As war artist McIntyre also rapidly learnt the most practical methods of gathering information in battle, making short hand notes and tonal sketches for finished paintings back at army camp. When he arrived in Crete on 14 May 1941 the German Luftwaffe had begun bombing the New Zealand camp and McIntyre’s sketch of the terrain provides the sort of topographical detail that informed paintings such as General Hospital Crete (Archives New Zealand, AAAC 898, NCWA 301).
McIntyre was equally adept at summarising the changing light of the North African and Italian landscape. The working study for Mobile Showers Beside an Ancient Well, Tunisia 1943 (AAAC 898, NCWA 80) records the NZEF’s camp in a confident and summary tonal sketch. Similarly, his drawing An Italian Village Under Shellfire, May 1944 provides an insight into his painting, with the composition for the finished work already formed in the drawing (AAAC 898, NCWA 283).
In 1976 McIntyre reflected on his time as war artist: "I think my two and a half years in the Western Desert with the New Zealand Division were the best times in my whole life in the company of men... To me the New Zealand Division in those days was a superb thing. Men at their best in extraordinary circumstances." (Encounter, 1976.)
Over the period in which he served with the 2nd NZEF, McIntyre’s paintings and sketches perceptively conveyed the routine and harsh reality of war. Testimony to the authority of these familiar and dramatic narratives of the New Zealand soldier, his sketches and paintings continue to define New Zealand’s memory and experience of the Second World War today.
|Jonathan Grant Galleries Ltd
280 Parnell Rd, Parnell, Auckland, New Zealand.
Telephone +64-9-308 9125 Email email@example.com