Denys Wells (1881 - 1973)

Shell damaged buildings Northern France, c.1918


SKU: 3282

Oil on paper, 5 x 8 1/2 in. (12.7 x 21.5 cm.)

Height – 12.7cm
Width – 21.5cm

1 in stock


Private Collection

Exhibited: ‘Terrain & Conflict: Repercussions’, Young Gallery, Salisbury, November 10, 2018 – December 29, 2018

In 1914 Wells joined the Artist’s Rifles as a commissioned officer and served in France for the duration of the war. The Artists Rifles was a popular unit for volunteers, consisting of  three sub-battalions in 1914, with recruitment was eventually restricted by recommendation from existing members of the battalion. Over fifteen thousand men passed through the battalion serving at Ypres 1917, and in 1918 at Passchendaele, Somme, St. Quentin, Bapaume, Arras, Ancre, Albert, Drocourt-Quéant, Hindenburg Line, Canal du Nord, and Cambrai. Casualties suffered by members of this battalion and amongst officers who had trained with The Artists Rifles before being posted to other regiments were 2,003 killed, 3,250 wounded, 533 missing and 286 prisoners of war.

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Denys Wells
1881 - 1973

Born in Bedford, Wells studied at the Slade School of Fine Art under Henry Tonks, Philip Wilson Steer and Walter Westley Russell before going on to continue his studies in Paris. On his return to London he was elected a member of the Royal Society of British Artists in 1906, at the very young age of 25. (He became Vice President of the Society in 1955).

During World War I he joined the Artist’s Rifles as a commissioned officer and served in France for the duration of the war. By World War II he was too old for regular service and instead he served as an air raid warden. In order to record the bombed city he would often make his watercolour drawings of the ruined buildings in the morning following an air raid. In the years following the war his dismay at seeing the London he knew and loved left in ruins and then being altered by post war planners and developers led him on a mission to record the changing streets and buildings before they became lost. In addition to his watercolours of the streets of London he is also known for his oil paintings of interiors, portraits and still life subjects.

He regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy, New English Art Club, Society of British Artists, Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts and many other galleries in London and the provinces. The Ministry of Works, Sunderland Museum and Art Gallery and the London County Council bought his pictures. One-man shows were held at the Mall Galleries in 1972 and at the Medici Galleries in 1986. He lived in Malden, Surrey.

We are grateful to Sarah Colegrave for assistance.