Muirhead Bone, born on 23 March 1876 at Glasgow, was the fourth son of David Drummond Bone, publisher of the North British Daily Mail, and Elizabeth Miller Bone (nee Crawford), of 11 Napier Square, Kilbarchan.


His siblings were Drummond, James, David, John, Alexander, Jane and Ann.


James Bone became a well known journalist, and London editor of the Manchester Guardian for 33 years. Captain Sir David Bone was an author and mariner, and Captain of the Cameronia, which was torpedoed in the Mediterranean.


Muirhead qualified as an architect, before turning to art and studying at the Glasgow School of Art, originally at evening classes. He began printmaking in 1898, and although his first known print was a lithograph, he is better known for his etchings and drypoints. His subject matter was principally related to landscapes and architecture.


He became known for his depiction of industrial and architectural subjects and his work as a war artist in both World War One and World War Two, becoming an active member of both the British War Memorials Committee in World War One and the War Artists' Advisory Committee in the Second World War. He promoted the work of many young artists and served as a Trustee of the Tate Gallery, the National Gallery and the Imperial War Museum.


In 1901 Muirhead moved to London, where he became a member of the New English Art Club. He held his first solo exhibition at the Carfax Gallery in 1902. He was also a member of the Glasgow Art Club with which he exhibited.


He married Gertrude Helena Dodd in 1903, and they had two sons, Gavin and Stephen.


At the outbreak of the World War I, Charles Masterman, head of the British War Propaganda Bureau, appointed Muirhead as Britain's first official war artist in May 1916. Muirhead had lobbied hard for the establishment of an Official War Artists scheme and in June 1916 he was sent to France with an honorary rank and a salary of £500. Although thirty-eight years old at the outbreak of war, he was spared from certain enlistment by his appointment. His small, black and white drawings, and their realistic intensity, reproduced well in the government-funded publications of the day. Where some artists might have demurred at the challenge of drawing ocean liners in a drydock or tens of thousands of shells in a munitions factory, Muirhead delighted in them; he was rarely intimidated by complex subjects and whatever the challenge, those who commissioned his work could always be sure that out of superficial chaos there would emerge a beautiful and ordered design.

 

Commissioned as an honorary Second Lieutenant, he served artist with the Allied forces on the Western Front and also with the Royal Navy for a time. He arrived in France on 16 August 1916, during the Battle of the Somme and produced 150 drawings of the war before returning to Britain in October 1916. Over the next few months he returned to his earlier subject matter, drawing pictures of shipyards and battleships. He visited France again in 1917 where he took particular interest in depicting architectural ruins. Two volumes of his wartime drawings were published during the war, The Western Front and With the Grand Fleet. He was an active member of the British War Memorials Committee and helped select which artists received commissions from the Committee.


He received a knighthood in 1937 for services to art and he served as a Trustee and on the committees of several institutions including the Tate and the National Gallery.

 

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Muirhead Bone was appointed a member of the War Artists' Advisory Committee and also became a full-time salaried artist to the Ministry of Information specialising in Admiralty subjects. He produced scenes of coastal installations, evacuated troops and portraits of officers. However, following the death of his son Gavin in 1943, he decided not to continue with the Admiralty commission but he did remain an active Committee member until the end of the war. His other son, Stephen Bone, was subsequently appointed to the vacant Admiralty position.


Sir Muirhead Bone died in 1953, age 77, in Oxford. His final resting place is in the churchyard adjacent to the St Mary's Church, Whitegate at Vale Royal parish in Cheshire. He has a memorial stone in St Paul's Cathedral in London.


For more information, click the following links:


David Bone.

Western Front (Volume One).

Western Front (Volume Two).

Merchantmen at Arms.

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Scottish Pipers (1917) by Muirhead Bone.

Flanders behind the Lines, showing Locre and the tops of dug-outs on the Scherpenber (1916) by Muirhead Bone.

Chateau near Brie on the Somme by Muirhead Bone.

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