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Wood and Trees: War and Remembrance

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From Paul Nash paintings of blasted tree stumps in the first world war to today's commemorative planting: Paul Gough, Gabriel Hemery and Gail Ritchie join Samira Ahmed to explore woods in war and peacetime.

The 100th anniversary of World War I is being marked by the planting of woods across the UK under the banner 'We Will Stand For Those Who Fell'; the trees' annual cycles of regeneration and recovery a metaphor for mourning, memorial and moving on. But throughout history wood has been one of the central commodities required for the machinery of war and World War 1 was no different.
Historian James Taylor from the Imperial War Museum shows Samira some of the wooden artefacts which tell a story of wood's darker destructive side.

For many though, the paintings of Paul Nash, with their scenes of smashed solitary tree stumps standing in empty battlefields are a multi-layered evocation of that war's futility, horror and waste.
Samira takes a look at Paul Nash's 1918 painting 'We Are Making A New World' and talks to the artist, writer and Nash expert Paul Gough about this and other iconic Nash images and whether they have new messages for us today. They'll be joined by forest scientist Gabriel Hemery of the New Sylva Foundation to talk about the links between war and forest stock over time and Northern Irish artist Gail Ritchie whose current work explores some of Nash's themes in visual representations of present day conflicts and loss.

Available now

45 minutes

Last on

Tue 1 Jul 2014 22:00

The Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum

First World War galleries open on 19 July 2014 at the Imperial War Museum in London.

As does the Truth and Memory: British Art of the First World War exhibition which is showing from 19 July 2014 to 8 March 2015.  


The Imperial War Museum also have their own podcast, which is available to download for free.

Images: Top: We Are Making a New World, Paul Nash (1918), which is on show at the Truth and Memory exhibition. Right: The Menin Road, Paul Nash (1919), which is on show at the First World War galleries. Both © IWM. 


Paul Gough

Paul Gough

Brothers in Arms: John and Paul Nash by Professor Paul Gough is published later this month.

Brothers in Art: John and Paul Nash is showing at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol from 19 July 2014 until 14 September 2014. 

Image: A Gloucestershire Landscape, John Northcote Nash, 1914, oil on canvas, WA1978.67 © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford © The estate of John Nash. All Rights Reserved 2014, Bridgeman Art Library

Gail Ritchie

Gail Ritchie

You can find out more about the artist Gail Ritchie on her website.

Image: G. Ritchie - Ancestral Memory. Digital Image. 2013.

Gabriel Hemery

Gabriel Hemery

The New Sylva by Gabriel Hemery & Sarah Simblet is available in hardback  now.

Image: © Sarah Simblet 


Role Contributor
Interviewed GuestPaul Gough
Interviewed GuestGabriel Hemery
Interviewed GuestGail Ritchie
PresenterSamira Ahmed
Interviewed GuestJames Taylor
ProducerJacqueline Smith

Part of...

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Marking the centenary of World War One across the BBC

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