KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The National World War I Museum and Memorial in Kansas City is preparing to display a John Singer Sargent painting depicting British soldiers blinded by a gas attack on the Western Front.
The American artist's 8-by20-foot (2.4-by-6.1-meter) oil on canvas titled "Gassed" is so large the museum had to build a new exhibit space, called the Wylie Gallery. The exhibit opens Feb. 23 and lasts through June 3, The Kansas City Star reports.
Sargent's 1919 painting, which shows soldiers being guided to a medical station, is on loan from the Imperial War Museum in London. It has been on tour while its home exhibit space is being renovated. Kansas City is the only stop in the Midwest. The visit coincides with ongoing centennial observations of World War I.
"This is a pretty astounding thing for us to be able to have it here on loan and on exhibition," said Doran Cart, senior curator at the museum at Liberty Memorial. "We're highly regarded by the Imperial War Museums" in England. "Their director general is on our international advisory board, and she's been here."
Sargent witnessed this scene in the aftermath of a mustard gas attack near Arras, France, in August 1918, just weeks before the Armistice ended the war. Such scenes had become routine, which explains why other soldiers can be seen playing soccer in the background.
"'Gassed' is a national treasure in the United Kingdom, and bringing this magnificent painting to the National World War I Museum and Memorial stands as one of the most important achievements in our history," museum President Matthew Naylor said.
Museum officials had the painting in mind when they designed the Wylie Gallery in previously empty space beneath the deck of the Liberty Memorial. Oversize doors from a loading dock were necessary to fit the painting inside. It will occupy nearly the entire center wall of the new space.
The exhibit will also include objects relating to gas warfare from the National World War I Museum's collection as well as more modern items from the U.S. Army Chemical Corps Museum at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.
Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com