Artist and Empire at Tate Britain: Cryptic Paintings of Violent Imperialism

Excellent Piece

Repeating Islands


Exhibition features a piece by Elizabeth Butler now seen as an indictment of 19th century wars in Afghanistan – but viewed as a depiction of heroism in its time, Mark Brown of London’s Guardian reports.

It depicts the only known survivor of a shocking massacre and was seen by 19th-century eyes as an inspiring image of British heroism at the edges of empire. A more accurate reading might be as a damning indictment of a disastrous war in Afghanistan.

Elizabeth Butler’s The Remnants of an Army: Jellalabad, January 13th, 1842 – completed in 1879, during the second Anglo-Afghan war – was once one of the most important paintings in the entire Tate collection but has not been seen at the gallery for more than 50 years.

Then considered unfashionable, it was loaned to Somerset Military Museum in Taunton in the 1950s. But it is set to return to prominence after…

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