SEVEN HALTS ON THE SOMME. Memorial paintings by Hughie O’Donoghue RA on display for the centenary

30 June - 2 October 2016

Hughie O'Donoghue Warlencourt Ridge, 2014

To mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme Leighton House Museum, in partnership with Eton College, present Seven Halts on The Somme by Hughie O’Donoghue RA. First exhibited in 2014 at Eton College’s Verey Gallery, the seven large-scale abstract paintings will go on public display in Leighton House Museum to coincide with the start of the battle in July 1916, as a fitting commemoration of the lives lost during this terrible conflict.


O’Donoghue’s paintings are characterised by an in depth examination and interrogation of their subject matter. He uses both figuration and abstraction to explore themes of human identity, memory and experience, drawing on history, mythology and personal records to create works which resonate with emotional intensity. Seven Halts on The Somme is a sequence of paintings recalling seven stopping points, where troops were halted during one of the bloodiest military battles in history, one hundred years ago. Each painting is a commemoration of an individual life explored through a painting process evocative of archaeological excavation.


“Seven Halts on the Somme represents seven places where the army was stopped in 1916, seven places were lives were stopped and also seven places where I have stopped years later and tried to remember. As time distances us from events this ‘calling to mind’ becomes harder and the battle itself massive, labyrinthine and complex, more remote and difficult to understand.  I have tried to get closer to the story through the lives of individuals and the places where they fell, putting a human face on history and finding a personal connection. I believe that the universal can only really be understood through the particular. These paintings are a meditation in concrete form on past events, built up in successive layers, mirroring the way that an archaeologist removes layers to reveal a story.”


The paintings, on loan from the Eton College Collections, are the result of the artist’s residency at the college’s Drawing Schools in 2013-14. O’Donoghue spent many months exploring the remarkable collection of letters and diaries from World War One in the College Archives, alongside his own research into the landscapes of Northern France and his family connection to the conflict. Each artwork is a bold and vivid interpretation of a place in the landscape. Intense hues of yellow, red and green on square canvases of five feet and one inch, in reference to the height men had to be to qualify for service, and maps of the battlefield will mirror the intensity of The Somme and the horrors of war. The act of memory and remembrance is heightened through the portrayal of landscapes, buildings and fields that witnessed destruction and horror unlike any other.


PUBLIC EVENTS: Artist Talk with Hughie O'Donoghue. Saturday 2 July 12.30-1.30pm. Find out more information.

PRESS: For further information and images please contact Charlotte Sluter at SUTTON T: 0207 183 3577 | E:

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