Paul Lucien Maze (1887-1979)

Thiepval, Somme, 1917
coloured chalks
signed `Paul L. Maze.` (lower left), and inscribed and dated `Thiepval/1917` (lower right)
11 3/4 x 18 in. (29.8 x 45.7 cm.)

The village of Thiepval was completely destroyed during the Somme Offensive of 1916 and a short distance from there today stands the Thiepval Memorial which remembers the 72,246 missing British Empire servicemen with no known grave from the battles.
During World War One Maze worked with the British Army as an interpreter and military draughtsman. Among his responsibilities was high risk reconnaissance work, often recording enemy lines from positions forward of the British trenches. At the time of the Somme Offensive Maze was assigned to General Hubert Gough who was commanding the capture of Thiepval, where fighting continued into November 1916.
This rather sobering en plein air sketch by Maze, presumably made in the winter of early 1917, depicts a lone soldier positioned amongst the ruins and barbed wire, surveying the desolate frozen landscape ahead.
Maze’s experiences during the War are documented in his book ‘A Frenchman in Khaki’ (1934) and in one entry he describes how his brush once froze to the paper in conditions which can’t have been dissimilar during the creation of this work. However the changing landscape and horror of what he witnessed is fittingly recounted in another extract.
‘Over the whole face of the country shells have ploughed up the land literally as with a gigantic plough, so that there is more red and brown earth than green.’

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