Remembering the Great War

  • 4th August 2014 − 29th May 2016 | Scottish National Portrait Gallery | Admission free

About the Exhibition

The exhibition is split in to five sections, beginning with an exploration of some of the significant figures who played a part, as both proponents and opponents, in the run up to the outbreak of war, including George V, Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, and James Keir Hardie, who together with James Ramsay MacDonald, was strongly opposed to the war. Also in this section are images telling the story of women and the war effort, addressing not only the social changes brought about by the conflict, but the opportunities it gave to those at home, particularly through the Suffrage movement.

The second section tells the personal stories of significant and recognisable figures in the Scottish artistic landscape at the start of the 20th century. Writer J M Barrie, for instance, lost his adopted son at Flanders; architect George Washington Brown lost three sons; Harry Lauder not only entertained the troops but also lost his only son; artist William McCance was imprisoned as a conscientious objector; and Lord Reith, later the Director-General of the BBC, fought with the 5th Scottish Rifles - his scar from being shot in the face by a German sniper is clearly visible in Sir Oswald Birley's 1933 portrait of him.

The third section focuses on the contribution of Scottish people to the medical response to the war and its effects. For instance, Marjory Kennedy Fraser, a Scottish folk song composer and collector founded Bangour Village hospital to help those suffering from mental illness, which became a treatment centre for sufferers of shell shock; Dr Elsie Inglis, founding member of the Scottish Women's Suffragette Federation established the Scottish Women's hospital for foreign service, which was staffed by volunteers and funded by donations; and Lady Margaret Sackville, a poet and children's author, was outspoken against women's involvement in the war effort and was acquainted with Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, both of whom convalesced at Edinburgh's Craiglockhart Hospital. Also included in this section is photographs of nurses and wounded men on the wards of Springburn Hospital.

Section four shows the original drawn designs (cartoons) for the First World War Memorial that is housed at Edinburgh Castle. These illustrate the artistic response to the need for commemoration in a national setting for those who had recently lost their lives in the conflict.

At the end of the exhibition is a display of works by contemporary photographer Peter Cattrell showing haunting recent images of the Somme battlefield in France, and then finally there will be a section dedicated to the projected display of images of unidentified servicemen and women.