Backs to the Wall, 1918

Backs to the Wall, 1918

Oil on Canvas by Scots artist Robert Gibb (1845-1932). Gibb is remembered mainly for his stirring battle scenes such as 'The Thin Red Line' which was inspired by the account of the 93rd Highlanders stance at Balaclava.

In this painting the artist uses the compositional effect of a line of soldiers at the critical moment, in this case a line of khaki-clad Scottish troops standing defiantly, bayonet at the ready and the ghostly figures of dead comrades above the soldiers' heads.

The painting was inspired by Sir Douglas Haig’s famous Special Order of the Day at the time of the Great German Offensive of April 1918.

"…There is no other course open to us but to fight it out.  Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall, and believing in the justice of our cause, each one of us must fight on to the end…"

This painting was Robert Gibb’s final battle scene painted after the War and towards the end of his life.  He died in Edinburgh in 1932.

"With our Backs to the Wall" has become a saying in familiar use to many people even to this day when faced with a monumental task against overwhelming odds.

The painting was gifted by the late W J Webster of Denley, Arbroath, in 1932 to the collections of the Burgh.

Backs to the Wall, by Robert Gibb, Angus Council Museums