Even as a boy, I’ve always had a keen interest in military art. In pre-internet days (remember those?) often the only way to see such art was in books borrowed from the library. Many favourites I can still recall today; Philippoteaux’s depiction of Waterloo or Fontenoy; Lady Butler’s “Steady the Drums and Fifes”, “The Roll Call” or the charge of the Scots Greys in “Scotland Forever”; Charles Fripp’s “The Battle of Isandlwana” was on my bedroom wall, whilst Terence Cuneo’s painting of Lance Sergeant Smith winning the Leicestershire regiment’s first VC in the Crimea could be seen in my local museum.
I’ve received through the post today a copy of the 1982 book “Uniforms of the British Army: The Cavalry Regiments”, which features many of the watercolour paintings by Richard Simkin. Simkin was a military artist from the late Victorian period whose output was truly prodigious. Whilst in no way perfect, he was far ahead of most of his peers both in terms of quality and historical accuracy. Though not averse to painting action scenes, his speciality was in uniform depictions. He would fulfil commissions for individual regiments or complete a series (as he did in a huge project lasting over a decade for the Army and Navy Gazette).
Aside from the many fabulous full colour plates of Simkin’s beautiful work, the book is packed with information on the history of uniform development covering all the British cavalry regiments (4 Guards, 7 Dragoon Guards and 21 numbered line regiments).
Perhaps it’s come a little late for the Nappy Cavalry Project as I don’t think I’ll be painting any more British cavalry this year. Nevertheless, I’ll be spending many a happy hour browsing through its pages. This is his depiction of the Royal Horse Guards in 1815. I’ll be presenting my own painted 1/72 scale model versions hopefully a little later this week…