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A Soldier's Sketches Under Fire by Harold Harvey


[Illustration: PRIVATE HAROLD HARVEY. _Frontispiece_]



[Illustration: SLM & Co. MDCCXCIV]




A title such as "A Soldier's Sketches Under Fire" indicates at once the nature, scope and limitations of this unpretentious volume of annotated drawings to which it has been given.

Faked pictures of the war are plentiful. Sketches taken on the spot they depict, sometimes by a hand that had momentarily laid down a rifle to take them, and always by a draughtsman who drew in overt or covert peril of his life, gain in verisimilitude what they must lose in elaboration or embellishment; are the richer in their realism by reason of the absence of the imaginary and the meretricious.

All that Mr. Harold Harvey drew he saw; but he saw much that he could not draw. All sorts of exploits of which pictures that brilliantly misrepresent them are easily concoctable were for him impossible subjects for illustration. As he puts it himself, very modestly:

"There were many happenings--repulsions of sudden attacks, temporary retirements, charges, and things of that sort that would have made capital subjects, but of which my notebook holds no 'pictured presentment,' because I was taking part in them."

He also remarks:

"Sketched in circumstances that certainly had their own disadvantages as well as their special advantages, I present these drawings only for what they are."

Just because they are what they are they are of enduring interest and permanent value. They have the vividness of the actual, the convincing touch of the true.

Mr. Harvey was among the very first to obey the call of "King and Country," tarrying only, I believe, to finish his afterwards popular poster of "A Pair of Silk Stockings" for the Criterion production. To join the Colours as a private soldier, he left his colours as an artist, throwing up an established and hardly-won position in the world of his profession, into which--sent home shot and poisoned--he must now fight his way back. His ante-war experiences of sojourn and travel in India, South and East Africa, South America, Egypt and the Mediterranean should again stand him in good stead, for the more an artist has learned the more comprehensive his treasury of impressions and recollections; the more he has seen the more he can show. To Mr. Harvey's studies of Egyptian life, character and customs was undoubtedly attributable the success of his "Market Scene in Cairo," exhibited in the Royal Academy of 1909. Purchased by a French connoisseur, this picture brought its painter several special commissions.

I venture to express the opinion that the simple, direct and soldierly style in which Mr. Harold Harvey has written the notes that accompany his illustrations will be appreciated. His reticence as regards his own doings, the casual nature of his references--where they could not be avoided--to his personal share in great achievements, manifest a spirit of self-effacement that is characteristic of the men of the army in which he fought; men whose like the world has never known.


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