Sketches of Indian Sepoys

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Description

Sketches by the French war artist Paul Sarrut, who was stationed at the Western Front.

Context

Paul Sarrut was a young French liaison officer who had access to some of the Indian camps at the Western Front in 1914-1915, including Bethune which is mentioned in one of the sketches. Intricate and intimate, these sketches often take us to places not covered by the camera, such as the inside of a camp or a billet. A complete contrast to the 'imperial heroics' of the sepoys, as depicted often in W.D. Girdwood's photographs or sketches appearing in The London Illustrated, these pictures capture the sepoys in a variety of moods and actions - smoking, chatting, sitting, cooking, or waiting to be transferred to the casualty-clearing station. Often eerily acute in their depictions of the gestures and postures of the sepoys, they not only reveal Sarrut's deep engagement with the sepoys but are important historical sources for reconstructing the sepoy experience in France. Some of the sketches, like that of Mohan Singh, are also signed in Gurmukhi as well as in English by the sitter, making the sketch itself a physical trace of the moment of encounter.