Sunday, 25 April 2010


“In war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” - José Narosky

Today is Anzac Day, one of the most important commemorative days in the Australian Calendar. ANZAC was the name given to the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps soldiers who landed on the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey early on the morning of 25 April 1915 during the First World War (1914-1918). As a result, one day in the year has involved the whole of Australia in solemn ceremonies of remembrance, gratitude and national pride for all our men and women who have fought and died in all wars. That day is today, 25 April.

Every nation must at some stage, come for the first time to a supreme test of quality; and the result of that test will hearten or dishearten those who come afterwards. For the fledgling nation of Australia that first supreme test was at Gallipoli. The Australian War Memorial in Canberra leads the nation in honouring the fallen, but every city, town and village in Australia today commemorated the significance of this day with a variety of activities that perpetuates the memory of the dead, “lest we forget”…

The Gallipoli operation cost Australia 26,111 casualties, 8,141 dead; New Zealand 7,571 casualties, 2,431 dead; Britain 120,000 casualties, 21,255 dead; France 27,000 casualties, 10,000 dead; India 1,350 dead; Newfoundland (now part of Canada) 49 dead.

The painting for this Art Sunday is Charge of the 2nd Infantry Brigade at Krithia (1927) by Charles Wheeler (1880-1977). He was born on 4 January 1880 at Dunedin, New Zealand, son of John Edward Wheeler, labourer, and his wife Victoria Julia, née Francis, both English born. After John's death, Julia moved with her family to Williamstown, Melbourne, about 1891. Apprenticed in 1895 to C. Troedel & Co. as a lithographic artist, Charles began part-time study next year at the Working Men's College; in 1898 he took drawing classes at night in the National Gallery schools under Frederic McCubbin and in 1905 joined the painting class under L. Berbard Hall. Some five years later Wheeler held his first one-man show. In 1910 the National Art Gallery of New South Wales purchased his painting, 'The Portfolio', and the National Gallery of Victoria acquired 'The Poem'. Wheeler exhibited with the Victorian Artists' Society in 1908-10 and with the Australian Art Association in the 1920s and 1930s.

In April 1912 he had travelled to London, visiting Paris and the Prado in Madrid to see the work of Velazquez. In the following year he exhibited 'Le Printemps' at the Salon de la Société des Artistes Français, Paris, and in 1914 went to the Netherlands. Returning to England before the outbreak of World War I, he enlisted in the 22nd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (1916) for his actions at Vimy Ridge, but refused a commission and remained a sergeant. Demobilized in February 1919, Wheeler took a studio at Chelsea and exhibited 'Autumn Afternoon' and 'Golden Hours' at the Royal Academy of Arts, London. Back in Melbourne, he held an exhibition at the Athenaeum Gallery in March 1920. For some years a private teacher of drawing and painting, he became assistant drawing instructor at the National Gallery in 1927 and drawing-master in 1935.

1 comment:

  1. I don't suppose the purpose of this post was to discuss Charles Wheeler's work, but I don't know that artist and I wished I did.

    It seems as if Wheeler fought as an ordinary soldier during the war, not as a formally designated war artist. Therefore he either painted this 1927 image from memory 12 years later, or he went back to Gallipoli after the war with a formal organisation like Royal British Colonial Society of War Artists. Do you know if he went back to Turkey with George Lambert and others?

    I think the idea of a memorial day is important; I just wish Gallipoli wasn't such an almighty massacre for British and Empire troops.