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

Thursday, May 4, 2023

Censored Masterpiece: C.R.W. Nevinson's "Paths of Glory"

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Paths of Glory, 1917

In one of Nevinson's most famous paintings, we see the bodies of two dead British soldiers behind the Western Front.The title is a quote from "Elegy Written In A Country Church-Yard'' by Thomas Gray. "The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r, And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, Awaits alike th'inevitable hour. The paths of glory lead but to the grave." Whereas the poet reflects on bodies dead and buried in a church-yard, the so-called "Paths of Glory" have led these soldiers to death in a wasteland.

Paths of Glory was famously censored by the official censor of paintings and drawings in France, Lieutenant-Colonel A N Lee, his concern presumably being the representation of the rotting and bloated British corpses at this stage in the war. The decision was confirmed three months before the opening of his exhibition at the Leicester Galleries in 1918, but Nevinson still included the painting with a brown paper strip across the canvas, blatantly inscribed with the word "censored."

As a result, Nevinson was reprimanded for exhibiting a censored image and for the unauthorized use of the word "censored" in a public space. Predictably, the stunt created the publicity Nevinson desired. The painting was purchased by the Imperial War Museum during the course of the exhibition.

Source: Imperial War Museum


  1. Thanks for the researching and sharing the history of this masterpiece.

  2. Thanks for me too.