Circa 1950 England
William Longstaff – A View of Arundel Castle
Height 28 inches (71 cm)
Width 30 inches (76 cm)
Depth 2 inches (5 cm)
A View of Arundel Castle. Oil on canvas in period frame.
Dimensions refer to outer framed size.
Captain William Frederick Longstaff (1879–1953) was an Australian painter and war artist known for his works commemorating those who died in the Great War.
Longstaff was born in Ballarat, Victoria. He was educated at Grenville College, Ballarat, studying art at the Ballarat School of Mines. He also received some private tuition before joining the military and serving in the Boer War with the South African Light Horse. He was a cousin of the portrait artist Sir John Longstaff.
Upon his return to Australia, Longstaff continued to paint and teach art. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force at the outbreak of the First World War and was injured in the Gallipoli campaign. In October 1915 he joined a remount unit, serving in France and Egypt, before being evacuated to England in 1917. In England, he started to draw again and was trained in the art of camouflage. During his time in Egypt, Longstaff made images of the ANZAC Mounted Division and the other units. Upon his appointment as an Official War Artist in 1918 he produced many works during the final campaigns of the Western Front.
Following the war, Longstaff continued in his art and turned many of his sketches into paintings. Even after military service, he remained in England, eventually settling in Sussex. From the late-1920s, he made return trips to the battlefields of France and Belgium painting haunting images in a spiritualist style. Among these later works is Menin Gate at Midnight (1927), arguably his most famous, that depicts the ghostly figures of soldiers marching past the monument. The painting toured Australia in 1928–29 where it was viewed by record crowds. It is now housed in the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. In December 2000, Menin Gate at Midnight left the War Memorial on loan to the National Gallery of Australia, the first time it had left the memorial since its installation there in 1941.
The present picture was painted during Longstaff’s time in Sussex and depicts the well loved view of Arundel in the South Downs, showing the town above the river Arun; its famous castle shown in a warm haze before a vivid summer sky.