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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

“Vanished Armies: A Record of Military Uniform Observed and Drawn in Various European Countries During the Years 1907 to 1914”, drawn by A. E. Haswell Miller; edited by John Mollo

128 pages, Shire, ISBN-13: 978-0747807391

Archibald Ernest Haswell Miller was a Scottish soldier, painter and historian who studied at the Glasgow School of Art between 1906 and 1909 and becoming a probationary Professor and traveling to study in Paris, Vienna, Munich and Berlin. It was during these travels that he painted the majority of the figures in this book. During World War One He served with the Highland Light Infantry at Gallipoli, Palestine and France, during which service he was awarded the Military Cross, attained the rank of Captain, and continued to sketch and paint as opportunities arose. He became a prolific painter of military portraits and his work was exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Royal Scottish Academy and elsewhere. For the last 25 years of his life, Haswell Miller was an advisor to the Army Museums Ogilby Trust. He died in 1979 aged 92. (92!)

Thank goodness one such as he was around, for his solid, eyewitness full-color watercolors of European soldiers as seen in public in pre-World War One (and a little later) are extraordinary in their simplicity and detail. Many of the uniforms are thus some variation of social or walking-out dress with no close ups of badges or insignia. Also, by the nature of things, bandsmen are well represented, as are some cloaks, capes, and overcoats as worn in colder weather. Great Britain and Germany have the most numerous examples, but smaller countries such as Italy, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands can be seen as well. The range of subjects makes no attempt at being comprehensive, but rather is just what chance presented to the traveling artist during this time. Since color photography was rare back then, this is the next best thing.

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