Lucy Kemp-Welch was painting in Cocking, located in the Sussex Downs , when WW1 broke out in August 1914. She had been busy painting some wonderful rural scenes such as "The passing train", "The return from the fields", and "The Waterway" all of which were exhibited and sold at the Royal Academy summer exhibitions between 1912 and 1914. These fine works depicted the heavy horse "plodding" home after a hard days work. The war brought change for horses. Although the Army were on the brink of mechanisation the horse was still in use for transportation and the hauling of guns and many of those farm animals were commandeered by the War Office.
It was early in the war , and as a result of her famed depictions of working horses , that she was approached by the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee to produce a picture of a cavalryman charging straight at the viewer. The artist , and friend, Rowland Wheelwright posed as the rider and Lucy's own horse Black Prince was the study for the horse. This recruiting poster is today still perhaps the most well known and iconic image produced by Kemp-Welch. But it was to " The Front" that Lucy wished to go to capture the "War Horse " in battle but she was constantly thwarted. She offered her services at Whitehall, contacted The Graphic and enrolled on a first aid course all in an effort to be allowed to work in the front line but was constantly refused. To her frustration, it was Munnings and Algernon Talmage who were recruited as Official War Artists while she had to make do with painting the artillery in training.
She found assistance in the form of Colonel Yorke , who gave her access to the horse field gun teams as they trained on Sailsbury Plain. In thanks she painted the Colonel's horse . Lucy Kemp-Welch's painting "Forward the Guns " was produced from the sketches that she had made thanks to Colonel Yorke and it was acquired for the Tate. Yorke informed Lucy that the men in his brigade were delighted with the painting. While the officer was happy the rest of the Art world got embroiled in an argument over the Chantrey Bequest Fund and their purchase of the painting for the Tate. Lucy was angry and distressed. She did, however, carry on painting images of the War Horse despite again being refused by Whitehall to paint at "The Front" in France. Interestingly page 127 of "The spirit of the horse" by Laura Wortley has two images depicted that are almost identical to the image we, here at Blondes Fine Art , currently have for sale. They are charcoal with highlights and are dated 1918.
Lucy Kemp-Welch had helped to convert both the horse and women into heroes and in 1918 women over 30, with the appropriate property qualifications, voted for the first time in a general election. Just pause for one moment and consider that fact a little longer .
It is still less than 100 years ago that women got the vote!