2. Robert Sargent Austin, Ypres, 1920
Robert Austin (1895–1973) won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in London in 1914, but his studies were interrupted by the outbreak of war. He served as a gunner in the trenches of the Western Front, so scenes like this would have been very familiar to him. The lone, blasted tree stands as a symbol for the destruction of Ypres, which was the scene of five major battles, while the ruined church hints at the human and spiritual cost of the war. The Ashmolean also holds two pencil studies (WA1985.152 and WA1985.154; 1918) for this print, the understated simplicity of which makes it all the more poignant. Once demobilized, Austin continued his studies, becoming an important etcher, and during the Second World War he worked as an official war artist.