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Goya at the British Museum

November 16, 2012

On wednesday I accompanied my Daughter to St. Jame’s Palace in London to a presentation ceremony where she was formally awarded her Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award. We spent a few hours, prior to the ceremony, at the British Museum. The Museum currently has an exhibition of Spanish drawings and prints which is excellent. I particularly enjoyed the prints by Francisco Goya and especially the drawing he made in 1812 of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. If I remember rightly Goya had to visit Wellington in the field to make sketches for a portrait he was to make. To my mind this is one of the first, and finest examples of ‘the thousand yard stare’ ever depicted.

The 1000 yard stare (sometimes known as the 2000 yard stare) being the phrase used to describe the empty, unfocused, eyes of  a soldier (or other sufferer of post traumatic stress disorder) where the sufferer appears to be looking off into the distance in a detached and vacant way. This stare has been captured a number of times in photographs, famously by Don McCullin in 1968 when he photographed a US Marine after street fighting in Huê.

During my time in Afghanistan I was fortunate enough to produce one drawing of an Afghan National Army soldier that I felt captured a similar look.

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