Gary Haines investigates the representation of blinded veterans of the First World War in England. Two key works of literature - DH Lawrence's 'The Blind Man' and Vera Brittain's 'Testament of Youth' - will be discussed in relation to John Singer Sargent's famous oil painting 'Gassed', 1919.
Sargent's depiction of the sightless soldier shaped popular perceptions of those blinded in battle. 'Gassed' is a painting that has evolved into more than oil on canvas. It has become an icon of suffering. The work of St Dunstan's, now Blind Veterans UK, forms the conclusion of this discussion. They fought against misconceptions surrounding those blinded in war and enabled the blind to lead more self-sufficient lives.
Gary Haines is a freelance archivist, teacher, writer and curator. For the last three years, he has been performing research at Birkbeck College into cultural perceptions of the blinded British soldier.