" In short, Archer is celebrating the last great flourishing of figurative British sculpture. His account is exhaustive, rich in detail and anecdote,taking his subject in all aspects of its imagery -- the Pals battalions that marched away; the women they left behind;the trenches; the sacrifice; the narrative of war; the grief. With its many photographs and copious appendices, the book is a wonderful gazetteer for those of us already hooked, to be put in the car on our travels around the country". William Packer, THE TIMES,12/12/09
"My love of three-dimensional art has now been totally stimulated by this superb and magnificently illustrated book showing the wonderful figurative imagery produced by British sculptors. The information contained in this work is outstanding and I have waited years for such a comprehensive and fascinating piece of writing accompanied by so many photographs. Once you start reading this book, it is difficult to put down - one does need a comfortable chair and a good book rest (yes, it is quite heavy). The bibliography and appendices are brilliant - so important for research and for the non-academic who wants more information about individual works. Geoff Archer has set himself a task to answer questions about how, why and by whom these sculptures were produced - his book has gone a long way to provide the answers. I commend this book in its entirety. It is a must for every person interested in the conflict and the aftermath of the First World War". David Cohen/ WFA Bulletin
It has, in the last decade, become acceptable again to look closely at the First World War without shying away from the human tragedy of those lost and wounded. For many years, we found the whole subject difficult and embarassing, unsure how to approach it or what the appropriate response was. This book comes at the right time for us to appreciate it and it tells a fascinating story. The book reads like a thesis which has been souped up for general publication, but the text is nicely written and easy to follow. My only quibble is with the font, which is poorly chosen and impairs legibility.
Archer's interest is not just in the sculpture but in the whole emotional and social climate which accompanied the production of thousands of war memorials. He limits his field to those which feature figurative sculpture, but aims to include every one of the hundreds which do so. The book discusses style of course; how the demand for so many public monuments brought new young sculptors to prominence and gave a last flourish to those whose careers were in decline; how the sentimental, classical style of the late Victorian era clashed with a new realism and stylisation of the human body which prefigures both Art Deco and Soviet Realism; and how commissioning committees agonised of the appropriate choice of design. One reads with a wry smile how many opted for a classical, "timeless" design - now so sadly dated - eschewing the realistic depiction of contemporary uniform which, to today's eyes, still gives so many monuments their power and relevance.
While some sculptors had a decent body of late-Victorian work behind them, others were young artists who had served at the Front during the war. Archer examines their differing approaches to subject matter and the way public taste changed in the years immediately after the war. Many monuments were put up only in the late 1920s, and in some cases the developing Depression made public bodies ask whether a monument was an appropriate use of funds.
Archer's study of the public psychology of Britain, from the patriotic enthusiasm of the early weeks of the war, through the shock and trauma of the trenches, to the post-war period of grief and reflection is the pervasive setting to all the discussion of art, and makes this book far more fascinating than any mere study of public scuplture would have been.
One of the surprises of this book is the huge range, both in artistic style and quality as well as in subject matter, of the many memorials. The numerous photographs are in black and white - hardly a problem - and are inset in the text. Where referred to elsewhere they are keyed and cross-referenced. As War Memorials monuments are present in almost every village green and market square, the book can add spice and interest to a road trip or holiday, as one can seek out particularly curious or beautiful examples.