‘Calculating the future’ – panoramic sketching, reconnaissance drawing and the material trace of war
Gough, P. (2009) ‘Calculating the future’ – panoramic sketching, reconnaissance drawing and the material trace of war. In: Cornish, P. and Saunders, N. , eds. (2009) Contested Objects: Material Memories of the Great War. London: Routledge, pp. 237-251. ISBN 978-0-415-45070-6
Publisher's URL: http://www.routledge.com
Introduction Since the establishment of the training academies in the 18th century, the military have taught drawing as a navigation and exploratory tool. At Woolwich, Dartmouth and Great Marlow, gentlemen cadets and sailors were trained to analyse and record landscape and coastline as a means of neutralizing and controlling enemy space. Perhaps surprisingly, the practice is maintained today; the quality of drawing made by field gunners and reconnaissance scouts may lack the artistry of their 18th century forebears, but it has in common the desire to schematize the act of looking, and to reduce drawing and note-taking to the essentials, using basic but tested methods of measuring and calibration by eye and hand. Military drawing was an element of the curriculum at the first military academy set up at Woolwich in 1741. The Rules and Orders required the Drawing Master to 'teach the method of Sketching Ground, the taking of Views, the drawing of Civil Architecture and the Practice of Perspective.' (Buchanan 1892:33) Probably the most eminent artist associated with Woolwich was the watercolourist Paul Sandby, who served as Drawing Master from 1768 until 1796. Sandby was then at the height of his fame, and his appointment at a military academy reflects the importance of drawing in the training of the artillery and engineer cadets. Under his guidance the quality of observation and draughtsmanship was consistently high, and a number of his pupils went on to prove themselves as expert front-line draughtsmen, often making crucially important reconnaissance drawings and finely illustrated reports (Hardie 1966: 216) During the Napoleonic Wars it was recognized that a skill in drawing could be of immediate benefit in unmapped and unknown terrain. With the establishment of new Staff and Junior military colleges in 1801, drawing became firmly established as an essential element in the training of infantry and cavalry officers. At the height of the war period, the country was scoured for capable landscape draughtsmen to employ as drawing tutors. Even John Constable was interviewed in 1802 for the post of Drawing Master at the Junior Department in Great Marlow, but he later rejected the offer, arguing that had he accepted 'it would have been a death blow to all my prospects of perfection in the Art I love' .
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