Will Longstaff painted "Menin Gate at Midnight" after he had attended the unveiling ceremony of the Menin Gate memorial at the entrance of the Belgian town of Ypres on 24 July 1927.
The scene is painted almost entirely in hues of blue, which helps to suggest a midnight scene. It is constructed on a simple, traditional, land-sky format: the pale memorial is placed boldly on the horizon, and before it marches a host of ghostly soldiers. In the immediate foreground, the cornfield is strewn with blood-red poppies. In the far distance, a small, silhouetted building with windows ablaze adds dramatic contrast to the still monument of Menin Gate.
Will Longstaff's "Menin Gate at Midnight" – (Ghosts of Menin Gate), painted in 1927, is undoubtedly one of the best known paintings in the Australian War Memorial's art collection. C172234
Longstaff's painting was purchased by Lord Woolavington in 1928 for 2,000 guineas and was immediately presented to the Australian Government.
One thousand reproductions of the painting were made in 1928 under Longstaff's direction, and signed by the artist. He retained 200 of these to cover his costs and presented 400 to the Returned Sailor's and Airmen's Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA) for sale through the Australian War Memorial. He gave the remaining 400 to the Earl Haig Fund, all to be sold at ten guineas each. The 400 allotted to Australia were sold by October 1929, at which time the Memorial produced a cheaper version which was distributed widely, door to door, through a marketing company.
- Will Longstaff the artist
Produced by staff from the art section of the Australian War Memorial.