The Paintings highlights the huge contribution of Sikhs in the UK , 83,000 Sikhs died in the World Wars and a further 109,000 were injured. As Sikhs began appearing on the battlefields, hospitals, towns and farms of Europe during World War One, for many it marked the first time that they had ever seen a […]
The Paintings highlights the huge contribution of Sikhs in the UK , 83,000 Sikhs died in the World Wars and a further 109,000 were injured. As Sikhs began appearing on the battlefields, hospitals, towns and farms of Europe during World War One, for many it marked the first time that they had ever seen a Sikh in real life. The appearance of the Sikhs generated a level of curiosity among Europeans about these exotic looking turbaned warriors from the Far East now in their midst to defend them. Paintings and drawings of Sikhs by artists including portraits, scenes of camp life and frontline action helped to satisfy the general public’s curiosity and the hunger for more information about them.This exhibit features a unique collection of paintings and drawings of Sikh soldiers from the First World War.
Striking portraits of Sikh prisoners of war painted by German artists reveal a fascination with ethnic studies as each soldier is meticulously recorded in lifelike detail, including how they tie their hair under their turbans. The time of these paintings marked the formative years of German ethnic studies that would later culminate in the Nazi ideas of race and racial superiority in the following decades. Looking at these lifelike paintings of Sikh prisoner’s one can see in their faces a quiet dignity; their spirit had not been broken in captivity by their German captors.
Fascinating sketches of Sikhs in northern France from the portfolio of artist Paul Sarrut reveal another dimension of the culture and humanity of the Sikhs beyond the stereotypical image of the Sikh as a fierce warrior. Sarrut effectively captured not only personalities with striking portraits but also provides an intimate glimpse into the world of a Sikh soldiers existence between the realms of peace and rest at camp and the brutal violence and intensity of battle at the front.
Almost a century after they were first painted and drawn these images continue to be relevant not only for their artistic merit but also as a time-capsule providing the viewer with an intimate glimpse into the life and experiences of Sikh soldiers in a world at war.
~ Tapasleen kaur