Menin Gate at midnight
|Title||Menin Gate at midnight|
|Place made||United Kingdom: England, Greater London, London|
|Medium||oil on canvas|
|Measurement||overall: 137 x 270 cm|
'Menin Gate at midnight' was painted by Will Longstaff to commemorate those soldiers with no marked graves on the Western Front during the First World War; also known as 'Ghosts of Menin Gate'. Longstaff attended a ceremony dedicating the Menin Gate memorial to the soldiers of the British empire forces, just outside the town of Ypres, Belgium, on 24 July 1927. The memorial was dedicated to the 350,000 men of the British and Empire forces who had died in battles around Ypres, and bears the names of 55,000 men with no known grave, over 6,000 of whom were Australians. Longstaff was profoundly moved by what he witnessed and that night, unable to sleep, Longstaff returned to Menin Road and later claimed to have had a vision of spirits of the dead rising out of the soil around him. On returning to his studio in London he painted 'Menin Gate at midnight' in a single session. Today 'Menin Gate at midnight' has achieved the status of a national icon, and it remains on permanent display in the Memorial. The painting retains its ability to provoke an emotional response and to communicate the scale of the loss of life and the devastation of war. However as people now have a very different understanding of war, the painting serves a slightly different function. Whereas in the past people responded to the painting as it related to the loss of a loved one and their own personal grief, now the painting communicates the loss experienced by a whole generation. The vast number of those who were killed, and the immensity of the damage wrought during the First World War, requires that those who sacrificed their lives should not be forgotten.