Sunday, 12 July 2015

Painting the Battle of Waterloo - reenactment 2015

Last month, I was in Belgium in my hometown to attend the very exciting reenactment of the Battle of Waterloo at the occasion of its bicentenary anniversary. My parents' house in Lasne is 10 minutes walk from the battlefields so this was an opportunity too good to be missed. The event was spread over 3 days with shows at night and visits to the bivouacs (campsites of the armies) during the day. I invited along my painter friend Tim King who has a passion for the Battle of Waterloo so he was very thrilled to be there too. We did some sketching on the spot and I only managed one oil painting in the bivouacs. But I got so inspired that I produced a series of paintings back home from various photographs. Here is below the result, displayed in my studio in Bath:

Let me go through each one...

The painting below was the only one I produced on the spot, although I did add some details back in the studio. I was in the allies bivouac with Tim and we spotted this great scene of the 9th company having a break with the view of the Lion Mount in the background. 

Waterloo 2015 reenactment - The 9th Sandham's company  16"x9"  oil on board

The set up

Tim and I borrowed some seats from one of the re-enactors' tent. People thought we were a part of the event because obviously at the time of the battle, photography hadn't been invented and painting would have been the only way to record things so it made sense for us to be there. A shame we weren't wearing traditional clothes!

We are surrounded, but we won't surrender!



The painting below was done from a photograph I took on that day in the bivouacs. This illustrates the whole atmosphere there: tourists walking amongst people casually wandering in army costumes. When you stop them to ask which army they are from, some of them tell you great stories about their lives as re-enactors, others will stay in character and pretend until the end they truly are the Duke of Wellington or Napoléon!

Waterloo 2015 reenactment - in the bivouacs  10"x12"  oil on board


The painting below is the view of the Lion's mount, from a photograph taken by my mum just minutes away from the house. Although this fits nicely with the Waterloo Battle theme, for me, this view simply reminds me of my childhood home.

Waterloo - The Lion's Mount  10"x8"  oil on board


The last three paintings below are depicting the atmosphere of the evening reenactment show, which I attended with Tim and my mum. It was so impressive to witness this battle live, see the smoke, hear the guns (and the screams!). 6000 re-enactors, 300 horses and 100 canons. It gives you a glimpse of what it must have been like at the time, and it is quite overwhelming!

Waterloo 2015 reenactment - in the fields  10"x8"  oil on board


Towards the end of the show, there was a beautiful sunset light, enhanced by the presence of smoke. I remember taking pictures, already eager to get back home in the studio and paint it...

Waterloo 2015 reenactment - sunset and smoke  10"x8"  oil on board


The painting below was done from a photograph taken by David Whitehead, one of the re-enactors I met while painting on the bivouacs. He kindly let me paint from his beautiful picture. In the background you can see the lights from the stands where the public was seating.

Waterloo 2015 reenactment - The French Dragoons  16"x10.8"  oil on board




Below are the few sketches I did in the bivouacs. I must confess I very rarely sketch, but I had great fun doing these. I mainly stayed in the scottish campsite area because there was a great atmosphere. One of the re-enactors asked me if he could keep my drawing. I accepted and decided to give them all to the people I drew. After all, those drawings would have been forgotten in my drawer back home, but in their hands, they will be a great souvenir of their experience.

And finally, here are a few pictures of the event. Below is a picture of Tim and I leaving my parents' house and ready to head to the bivouacs. It was so nice to be able to cycle there and not worry about parking etc... My daughter Louisa waved us goodbye and had fun all day with her grandmother while we were gone painting...

Some pictures of the bivouacs:

Some pictures of the reenactment:

My mum, Tim and I

And finally some great pictures taken by my mum:

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