Nugent Herman Welch

Aotearoa New Zealand, b.1881, d.1970

Billet Yard, France

  • c. 1918
  • Oil on canvas
  • Ngarita Charlotte Hounam Johnstone bequest, 2022
  • 353 x 252mm
  • 2022/156

Wellington artist Nugent Welch enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force in 1916 and spent two years fighting on the Western Front during 1917 and 1918, including at the Battle of Passchendaele. In April 1918 he became Aotearoa New Zealand’s first official war artist when he was appointed Divisional Artist in the New Zealand Armed Forces. His tasks were to record scenes behind the front lines – the depots, hospitals and camps used by the New Zealand Division, including the billet yards seen in this painting. These bombed out farm buildings would have offered refuge, rest and shelter for the war weary New Zealand soldiers coming off the front line, a welcome opportunity to take a break from the horrors of trench warfare. Welch was part of the Impressionist influenced Pumpkin Cottage Group in Wellington before the war and on his discharge from the army in 1919 he returned to Wellington and settled back into civilian life. He continued his career as an artist, becoming a central figure of the Wellington arts scene and painting plein air studies of the coast surrounding the region.

(ANZAC Day, 2023)