C R W Nevinson (1878-1858) was one of the greatest artists of the First World War. In 1917 he was sent to France by the British War Propaganda Bureau as an official war artist. Nevinson sought to portray the full horror and reality of war. He was unhappy with his role as a propagandist and soon found himself in conflict with the government who sought to regulate the images that the public was allowed to see.
Painted in 1917, one of Nevinson’s most famous works is entitled Paths of Glory. It depicts the bodies of two dead British soldiers on a barren landscape. The title is a quote from Gray’s ‘Elegy written in a Country Church-yard’ (‘The paths of glory lead but to the grave’). Nevinson tried to exhibit this painting at an exhibition held in London in March 1918. However, official permission was refused since it was deemed to be a ‘hindrance to the war effort’. The appearance of ‘dead bodies, even Germans’ in official images was banned by the War Office. Rather than remove the painting, Nevinson simply covered the two bodies with a strip of brown paper saying ‘CENSORED’, thereby attracting a huge amount of press coverage.