As a member of the Army Arts Society, Ray was recently invited to provide a piece of work to exhibit in an exhibition entitled ' Going To War' to be held in St Margaret’s, Westminster Abbey, Westminster, as part of the Abbey’s program of events to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the start of World War 1. The exhibition runs from 6th October 2014 to Sunday 16th November 2014.
In the artist’s preparation for the painting, Ray had to overcome several hurdles of research before he could commence his work.
Firstly, it had to be verified that the existence of the Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace was indeed, erected at the time of Sir Edward Grey’s speech. From research the monument was proved to be unveiled, only three years prior to the event.
Secondly, it was also difficult to obtain images showing the interior of the foreign office. It was assumed from the only images immediately and freely available that the building was highly likely to be a listed building and thus the wood paneling was still in existence today, as it was in 1914.
The third obstacle to overcome, was to obtain colour images of Sir Edward Grey himself to assess his build, dress, complexion, etc. The only photographs that seemed to be readily available were black and white, so Ray’s image of Sir Edward, is purely a depiction.
Ray then assembled a collage of these images to make it as authentic as possible and preview what he was attempting to show in his painting, prior to starting work.
After a month’s hard work applying the brush, the original canvas of the painting ‘Lights Out In Europe’ is now being exhibited at Westminster Abbey for the duration of the Remembrance period.
The First World War was a great catastrophe that begat greater and worse catastrophes. The ruin to come was famously glimpsed by the Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey on the eve of Britain’s declaration of war. On 3rd August 1914, his speech made in the British House of Commons thus inspired Parliament to commit the nation to war in Continental Europe.
This depiction illustrates Sir Edward Grey’s return to his office following his speech that day, and as he looked out at the sun setting over St James’s Park towards Buckingham Palace and the lights coming on in The Mall, he remarked to a friend…..
“ The lamps are going out all over Europe. We shall not see them lit again in our lifetime.”
It was a rare flash of eloquence from a man not noted for his clarity of speech.
Looking through the window at the bottom he views the palace. On looking up he envisages the future of soldiers carrying the dead and wounded across what was, the peace and tranquility of the French and Belgian poppy fields. As he looks further he sees the cause of this catastrophe and the lights going out to darkness, interrupted by warfare, with the battlefield shown in the far distance, at the top of the window.
The metaphor was chillingly precise — the world was indeed moving from light to darkness — and the prophecy remarkably accurate.