ACT News

Australian War Memorial acquires Horace Moore-Jones' Landing at Anzac watercolour

Because it is so tiny (just 14 x 22.5 cm), when next year it goes on exhibition at the Australian War Memorial people are going to peer closely into Horace Moore-Jones' watercolour sketch The Landing at Anzac, 25th April, 1915.

And when they do, a wealth of teeming detail will emerge in this work by a professional artist vividly recreating, soon after the landing, an event in which he took part.

The recent acquisition is being conserved and framed at the Memorial’s Technology Centre in Mitchell.

Peered into (and at Mitchell this reporter was peering over the shoulder of the memorial's paper conservator Nick Zihrul as he worked on the watercolour on paper treasure) distant just-disembarked soldiers the size of tiny ants mill about below the hills, while in the foreground soldiers the size of larger ants scramble up the hills and cliffs.

In the air, shells are exploding. It is the kind of exquisitely detailed painting in which, visiting it again and again, one will always find something new.

Ryan Johnston the head of art at the memorial says the exciting new acquisition's primary significance "lies in the immediacy of the artist's response to the Anzac landing and his personal experience of this important event in Australian history".

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It is believed to be the only known painting by a professional artist who participated in the landings at Gallipoli.

It is an eye-witness's pictorial report of the landing and it seems highly likely that Moore-Jones (c.1867-1922) made the painting soon after the landing and while the occasion was still vivaciously clear in his memory.

On his landing-day Gallipoli Cove has none of the tracks and diggings and piers that were later part of the character of the place.

And the vividly-painting British-born New Zealander Moore-Jones (in 1914, while in London, he enlisted in the British Section of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force) was capable, too, of a vivid use of words.

Of his Gallipoli experience he wrote: "you can imagine what it must be like to live, day after day, facing plateaus that are covered with one's dead comrades, whose faces had grown black by the time we could reach them, and the overpowering sickening stench. And what it means to sit, eating one's bread and jam surrounded by millions of flies who had been bred on dead bodies."

The action-crammed little watercolour was bought through a $95,000 grant from the National Cultural Heritage Account in an initiative to commemorate the First World War.

It is thought to have been carried-about on Gallipoli in the artist's backpack for six months.

It will be one of the treasures of the memorial's mightily refurbished World War I galleries to open early in 1915 in time for Anzac Day.

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