Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Hospital Tent:
A Forgotten War Painting of John S. Sargent

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The Hospital Tent

Late in September 1918, while gathering material for his iconic World War I painting "Gassed" near Peronne, American war artist John S. Sargent was struck down with influenza and taken to a field hospital near Roisel. Here he spent a week in a hospital bed next to the war-wounded, which inspired this work, now in the collection of the Imperial War Museum. It shows the interior of a hospital tent with campbeds lining the side. Many of the beds are occupied and covered with brown or red blankets. One soldier lies propped up on pillows reading, another sleeps turned on his side, the light from the open tent flap falling on his bed.


  1. Thanks for bring Sargent to everyone's attention. Not many realize that he spent time in France as a "war artist". Often his war paintings, with the exception of "Gassed" are not discussed even in biographies documenting most of his other works. Another "forgotten painting" of Sargent's is his small piece "The Arrival of American Troops at the Front" (oil on canvas, 1918). It hangs on a wall in the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, OK. I say overlooked because the Gilcrease's collection is largely native-american related; most visitors come to experience the native-american item, with only a few visiting the smaller fine arts area. Local legend has it that Lloyd George considered "The Arrival ..." as a possibility for the large commemorative work that Sargent had contracted to do, but ultimately selected "Gassed" for Sargent to produce in the large format that now hangs in the Imperial War Museum.

  2. What a gorgeous painting! It is for unusual posts like this one that I subscribe to Roads. Thank you!