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Great War: Unknown War

Unveiling of the Rothenstein Mural

Published: 20 May 2014

The Rothenstein Mural was painted in 1916 as a memorial to members of the British universities serving in the Great War.

Painted in 1916 by Sir William Rothenstein, former Principal of the Royal College of Art, and measuring approximately 10ft X 40ft, the mural was first displayed at the 11th Exhibition of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society at the Royal Academy in the autumn of 1916.

It depicts an academic procession and the conferring of a degree on an ‘unknown soldier' undergraduate by the then Chancellor of Cambridge University.

Presented to the University of Southampton in 1959, by the artist's son, Sir John Rothenstein, the work represents a unique piece of art history. It features many key academics from the era of the Great War, including Vice-Chancellors and Chancellors, and the Poet Laureate Robert Bridges.

In his book "Men and Memories", Sir William Rothenstein told how the idea for the mural came to him. He called it "The New Chivalry":

"I happened to be at Oxford where I witnessed the conferring of degrees . . . The sight of a number of youths, booted and spurred, with their gowns over their khaki, kneeling before the Chancellor to receive their degrees, put me in mind of the age of chivalry, so touching and beautiful were these young figures; and I thought what a fine subject for a memorial painting this would make . . . I therefore painted a group of representative figures, Vice-Chancellors, scholars and men of science surrounding a Chancellor conferring a degree upon a young soldier."

The mural will soon be unveiled in the Senate Room in the heart of the Highfield Campus.  This is part of a series of events and lecture to commemorate the First World War, further information is available on the Great War: Unknown War website.

The Rothenstein Mural

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