After a lengthy pause, I am returning to the project of sketching portraits of the War Poets of The Great War. It’s been 3 years (!) since I did my sketch of Robert Graves, but I’m back with a portrait of Edmund Blunden, whom I featured on the blog once before. This time I’m including one of his other poems but please do follow the link to the previous Blunden post to read Thiepval Wood and the explanation of it.
Here is my sketch and the photo I used for reference (via Wikipedia).
Les Halles d’Ypres by Edmund Blunden
A tangle of iron rods and spluttered beams, On brickwork past the skill of a mason to mend: A wall with a bright blue poster—odd as dreams Is the city’s latter end.
A shapeless obelisk looms Saint Martin’s spire, Now a lean aiming-mark for the German guns; And the Cloth Hall crouches beside, disfigured with fire, The glory of Flanders once.
Only the four square tower still bears the trace Of beauty that was, and strong embattled age, And gilded ceremonies and pride of place— Before this senseless rage.
And still you may see (below the noon serene, The mysterious, changeless vault of sharp blue light), The pigeons come to the tower, and flaunt and preen, And flicker in playful flight.
The poet/author Robert Graves has been featured here previously. I wrote about his experiences during the Great War and his inclusion in the memorial to the War Poets in Westminster Abbey. As well as being a fascinating character and a wonderful writer, he also has an excellent face: strong chin, full mouth, penetrating gaze, good bones… and so this week I chose to draw the young poet: Robert Graves.
I mentioned when I posted my first sketch, that I’d been inspired by the audio production of the play ‘The Half-life Of Marie Curie’. For my second sketch of the year, I’ve chosen the other character in the play: Hertha Ayrton. While not as well known as her friend, Marie Curie, Hertha Ayrton was a brilliant scientist in her own right. She was a mathematician, physicist and electrical engineer, mind you, in the early 20th century when the field was in its infancy. Because of her study of the characteristics of the electric arc and the resultant improvements in the use of electricity for lighting, she became the first woman to present her own paper before the Institute Of Electrical Engineers. Shortly thereafter, she was invited to become the first female member of the IEE.
Her work with vortices in water inspired the Ayrton Fan –a device which, despite the reluctance of the British War Department to deploy it– was used to dispel poison gas from the trenches in the Western Front during the Great War. Some 100,000 of these fans were used from 1916 over the course of the war.
In September 2019, the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson launched The Hertha Ayrton Fund, which is intended to aid developing countries to reduce emissions and meet global climate change goals by giving them access to the latest technologies. I think Hertha Ayrton would be delighted.
Here is my sketch of Hertha Ayrton and the photo I used for reference: