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Threshing

ROTHENSTEIN, William (1872 - 1945)

Threshing - William Rothenstein
Threshing - William Rothenstein
Threshing

Date: 1917

Media: lithograph on paper

Acquired: 1919; Presented by Ministry of Information

Accession Number: NWM A 13199

Collection: The Great War: Britain's Efforts and Ideals

This image shows a group of farm workers feeding a threshing machine with a cereal crop in order to separate out the inedible chaff. This was hard and tiring work, and traditionally involved the whole community, including women. The image drives home the value of the work done on the home front and the importance of British people coming together during the war.

On 15th May 1917, Rothenstein wrote to Ernest Jackson, ‘I hope to have the 5th drawing finished early this week and the last next week. I will then come up to town and do what is needful to the stones’.  He was not happy with some of his early work, writing, ‘somehow the lines seem poor and thin’.  He decided to print some in a red/brown colour rather than black.  These works are simple and understated, a contrast to the busyness and modernity of war shown in many of the other prints in the series.  They take their cue from images of rural labour that characterised much landscape painting from the mid-nineteenth century onwards.  They were probably drawn around Stroud, Gloucestershire, where Rothenstein was living. 

Rothenstein was born in Bradford of German-Jewish descent.  He studied at the Slade School of art, London and the Académie Julian, Paris. As well as being appointed official war artist to the British Army 1917-1918, he was artist to the Canadian army in 1919. Between 1920 and 1935 he served as Principal of the Royal College of Art and in 1931 he was knighted.

This work forms part of the portfolio The Great War: Britain's Efforts and Ideals, a series of 66 lithographic prints commissioned by the Ministry of Information in 1917. The series provide a broad and fascinating representation of Britain’s war objectives, military activities and effort on the Home Front.
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