A chance to see a little-known painting by John Lobley

On Sunday 4 November art enthusiasts will have the chance to see a little-known painting by war artist John Hodgson Lobley, as part of the commemoration of the WW1 armistice.

Where can I see the painting?

The painting which is an over 3 metres long is hung on the balcony of the Huddersfield Drill Hall on St Paul’s Street, Huddersfield.

Who was John Lobley?

John Hodgson Lobley was born in Huddersfield in 1878, the son of a woollen merchant. Lobley moved to London to study at the Slade School, the Royal College of Art and the Royal Academy, though he maintained connections with West Yorkshire, having painted portraits of local people.

What did he paint?

Lobley painted many portraits and landscapes of London and Dorset, but is best known for his work as an official ward artist during the First World War. He was commissioned by the Royal Army Medical Corps to paint 120 paintings focusing on medical scenes. He created a substantial series of works in the Queen’s Hospital for Facial Injuries at Frognal, Sidcup. His paintings do not glorify or dramatise wartime, but rather provide an insight and a record of the experience of wounded soldiers. Many of these paintings are part of the collection of the Imperial War Museum. In addition to his paintings of medical scenes, he created works of the battlefields, including this monumental painting of the 1/5th Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment in Ypres in 1915.

Why is the painting so important?

Like many of the war artists, Lobley was profoundly affected by his wartime experience and afterwards presented this painting for display in Huddersfield Town Hall. It is known that the painting was in Huddersfield Town Hall in 1925, but at some stage subsequently was moved to its current position on the balcony in the Drill Hall. Over the years the work seems to have been largely forgotten by everyone except the Regiment and it is reported that soldiers in training fondly refer to it as ‘The Fray Bentos Painting’ as it features the preparation of a meal from a tin of corned beef.

Sadly the painting was not included in the ArtUK catalogue of paintings in public collections (it has only recently been possible to photograph the painting with the use of a drone) and with the additional difficulties entailed in moving such a large painting it has not featured in any of the exhibitions commemorating WW1.

Now, in making preparation for the commemoration of the centenary of the end of the war the Regiment and Kirklees Museums & Galleries feel that the time has come for the painting and its artist to receive the acknowledgement they deserve.

How can I see it?

Members of the public will be able to view to painting on Sunday 4 November from 2pm to 4pm at Huddersfield Drill Hall.

At the same time the newly restored regimental war memorial will be unveiled and rededicated and there will be the opportunity to get hands on with WW1 artefacts from the Kirklees Museums and Galleries collection.

For more details of what’s on in Kirklees to commemorate 100 years since the end of World War 1, visit our website.

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