To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, Unseen Waterloo: The Conflict Revisited at Somerset House, London, displays a series of photographic portraits created by the photographer Sam Faulkner to represent soldiers from an era before photography was invented. At the end of the battle at Waterloo some 54,000 soldiers were dead or injured, with no visual record for their families as war photography did not come into its own until the mid-nineteenth century when it was used in 1854 in the Crimea War.
Over the last six years, Sam Faulkner has visited the annual Waterloo military re-enactment at Waterloo to photograph volunteers and has created dramatic life-size portraits of soldiers from both sides of the battle. 80 of these portraits are displayed in this exhibition curated by Patrick Kinmonth, on walls hung with scarlet Hainsworth fabric, which was the woollen cloth used to make the British ‘redcoat’ uniforms and which is still manufactured today. It is reminiscent of the traditional red walls of historic picture galleries, such as the National Galleries of Scotland which was hung with red felt when it opened in 1859.
These solders are now celebrated in a way that their officers were painted in oil portraits 200 years ago.
The Last of the Tide at the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace and in Edinburgh from January 2016, displays 12 portraits of veterans of the D-Day landing, commissioned by HRH The Prince of Wales to pay tribute to the ordinary men that played a crucial role in the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944. The D-Day landing, which was pivotal to the successful end of the Second World War, was the largest amphibious invasion in history and involved some 7,700 ships and 12,000 aircraft.
‘I am delighted to introduce this exhibition of portraits of veterans of the D-Day landings and very much hope that all who see it will share my belief that this wonderful collection of paintings captures the spirit, resolve, warmth and humanity of these remarkable men. It seemed to me a tragedy that there were no portraits of D-Day veterans, hence this collection of remarkable old soldiers from the regiments of which my wife and I are Colonel or Colonel-in-Chief.’ (HRH The Prince of Wales)
The 12 veterans all served in regiments with which The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall have a formal association and are by 12 different artists including Jonathan Yeo, James Lloyd, Ishbel Myerscough and Stuart Pearson Wright. Perhaps one of the most moving is the portrait of Sergeant Geoffrey Pattinson who was with the 9th Battalion The Parachute Regiment, where his portrait is set against and merges with a seascape in red which could perhaps represent the poppies of Flanders or the blood spilt by so many men.
“Painting someone who candidly describes the first time they set foot on foreign soil as the first time they jumped out of a moving aircraft and parachuted down through flying bullets, to land in Normandy for D-Day, makes Geoffrey one of the more extraordinary sitters I’ve encountered in my time as a portrait artist.” (Jonathan Yeo)
The title of the exhibition comes from a message to the troops sent by General Eisenhower on the eve of Day-Day: ‘The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!’.
Presenting a different and more contemporary view at Tate Modern is a series of paintings by the Dutch artist Rineke Dijkstra of French legionnaire Olivier Silva illustrating his development from enlistment in July 2000 through five years of service, which was a time of personal growth but also disillusionment with the Foreign Legion. Dijkstra uses photography to examine individuals at transformative times of their lives, in particular youth and the transition to adulthood.
“Her tracking of change and development across time relates to the idea of the photographic series but also reflects the complex life experiences and situations of her subjects. Balanced precariously between childhood and adulthood, or facing transformative challenges like parenthood or military service, these young people allow us to see far more of themselves than the composed and self-assured subjects of most contemporary portraiture.” (Tate Modern)
Three different sets of portraits which remind us about the many individuals who contribute to the armed services and to successful campaigns but also, with Dijkstra’s work, on the impact of military service on the men themselves.