This is one of a pair of watercolour paintings brought back from France or Belgium by my grandfather Iorwerth James who served in WW1. For a period he worked with Chinese labourers, one of whom must have produced and given him the paintings.
From 1917 around 140,000 workers were brought to Europe where they perfomed hard labour behind the front. This work continued after the armistice where they were used to clear ammunition and rubble and bury the dead in the war cemeteries.
The Chinese Republic's agenda in sending in the workers was to convince the European powers that China was a reliable partner of the Western powers and to gain a seat on the post war peace conference.
The Chinese Labour Corps consisted of mainly poor farmers who were barely aware of the existence of Europe. Although poorly paid their wages were still four times as much as they would receive as labourers in Shandong. The first labourers arrivedin Europe in 1917 and stayed until 1920.
This painting must have been produced by a labourer who was educated and had artistic talent. Perhaps it was done by an interpreter. There is a stamped seal on the pictures which possibly may be some form of identification.