Famed American artist John Singer Sargent had been commissioned by the British government to “contribute the central painting for a Hall of Remembrance for the World War,” and had been procrastinating until he saw the dressing station at the small village of Bailleulval in 1918. They were treating a number of British soldiers who had been blinded by a mustard gas attack.
The final product, Gassed, measures more than 9 feet tall and 21-feet long, and is considered one of the most important war-related works of the past several centuries. The panoramic scene not only shows the devastation to the young men in uniform, but in an ironic juxtaposition, a football (soccer) game is being played in the background seemingly unaware of the damaged and blinded parade of Tommies (the nickname of British soldiers). Gassed is on loan from the Imperial War Museums in the U.K.
The exhibition also includes original maps showing the location of the dressing station where Sargent witnessed the scene and reproductions of many of Sargent’s study drawings for the painting. Additionally, the Museum and Memorial partnered with the U.S. Army Chemical Corps Museum to feature historical and contemporary objects showing detection and protection from chemical warfare from World War I through the modern era.
The exhibition will be at the National World War I Museum and Memorial until June 3. They are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday; and from Memorial Day through Labor Day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday-Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays.