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WWI portraits tell war stories

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WWI portraits tell war stories

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An exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London aims to throw light on what it was like to live through World War One. From the crowned heads of Europe to the foot soldiers in the trenches, the hope is to give a true picture of how people felt about their experiences and how the war changed the world in the early 20th century.

Sandy Nairne, the director of National Portrait Gallery, said: “Of course the dominant sense is that of the power held by the crowned heads of Europe. So we tried to bring them together here. They are just rather amazing portraits, including a very exquisite portrait of the Archduke Ferdinand and actually you can see on the other side of the room just this rather pathetic figure of the assassin – of Princip giving that sense of the trigger, that it’s just this trigger that sets off this ghastly period of destruction, death, mortality.”

The exhibition uses film, photographs, diaries, letters and sketches to explore aspects of the war, including the nascent skills of plastic surgeons, who were faced with attempting to repair horrific damage.

Paul Moorhouse, curator of Twentieth Century Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery, said: “This exhibition is primarily about people, it’s about human experience. It’s asking the question ‘what was it like for those involved in the war to be there? What did they see? What did they feel? What did they believe? And what happened to them? What were their destinies? What were their stories?”

The Great War in Portraits runs until 15th June.

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