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Fred A. Farrell: Glasgow's War Artist

Fred A. Farrell: Glasgow's War Artist
Alan Greenlees, Fiona Hayes, Joanna Meacock, Mark Roberts

Introduction by: Duncan Dornan

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Frederick Arthur Farrell (1882-1935) came from a distinguished Glasgow family. He initially studied civil engineering, and as an artist was self-taught, although he owes a debt to the advice and example of Muirhead Bone. By the outbreak of World War I he was developing a reputation as an up-and-coming etcher and watercolourist of portraits and topographical subjects. He enlisted as a sapper, or military engineer, with the Royal Engineers Railway Troops Depot but was discharged from the Army due to ill health. In December 1916, Farrell returned to the Front as a war artist, attached for three weeks to the 15th, 16th and 17th Highland Light Infantry in Flanders. In November 1917 he was in France, attached for two months to the staff of the 51st (Highland) Division. In between, authorized by the Minister of Munitions and Admiralty, and supported by Glasgow's Lord Provost, Farrell drew the heroic home effort of women in Glasgow's munitions factories, shipyards and engineering works. As a former soldier, Farrell's sketches and watercolours of the Front powerfully offer a landscape filtered through personal experience and emotion.

Battle scenes and strategic deliberations are reconstructed, informed by first-hand accounts. Many include portraits of actual soldiers. There are poignant images of graves, devastated landscapes and destroyed churches. However, there are also scenes of reconstruction and renewed activity amid the desolation. He is at his most dynamic in his drawings of the munitions factories which are full of noise, light and movement. In these there is a sense of joy and energy in industry and machinery, in patterning and design. The commission Farrell received from the Corporation of Glasgow to produce 50 drawings of the front line and munitions factories in the city to record the war for posterity was extraordinary. He was unique in being the only war artist to be commissioned by a city rather than by the government, Imperial War Museum or armed forces. Glasgow was one of the first cities to recognize the importance of creating such a memorial, rather than just creating images for propaganda purposes.

Author Info

Joanna Meacock is Curator of British Art at Glasgow Museums. Previously the Scottish Regional Research Manager for the Public Catalogue Foundation, she has also taught and researched at the University of Glasgow for over 10 years within her specialist field of nineteenth-century art. Mark Roberts is Community Heritage Manager at Glasgow Museums. Previously a commercial archaeologist for over 30 years with many scholarly publications to his credit, he has an interest in military history and recently completed an MLitt in Battlefield and Conflict Archaeology at the Centre for Battlefield Archaeology at Glasgow University. Fiona Hayes is Curator of Social History at Glasgow Museums. Her collection areas cover various aspects of Glasgow history from the eighteenth century to the present, including popular protest movements, popular culture, home and working life and women's history. She has written about Glasgow Museums' photographic survey collections in Glasgow 1955: Through the Lens and 1970s Glasgow: Through the Lens. Alan Greenlees has worked for the Collections Management section of Glasgow Museums since 1999. As a Collections Access Assistant he works with the records and archives of a diverse range of collections.


'This exhibition catalogue with accompanying text shows what an exceptional talent [Farrell] was... one can't look at these paintings without being struck both by his technical skill and a desire to know more about the scenes he's depicting... there are many spellbinding pictures here.'
Alastair Mabbott, The Herald

'evocative and a fitting reminder that almost 18,000 Glaswegian soldiers never returned'
Galleries Magazine

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd
Publisher: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd

ISBN: 9781781300275
Publication Date: 29 Aug 2014
Number of Pages: 80
Height: 220
Width: 215
Illustrations: 55 colour

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