Online Collection

The Online Collection showcases a selection of our objects for you to discover and explore. This resource will grow as the Museum's Collection is catalogued and computerised, and as new acquisitions are added.

« New search

« Prev - 1 of 1 results - Next »

Patient Heroes, a Royal Horse Artillery Gun Team in action, 1882

Oil on canvas by Elizabeth Southerden Butler (née Thompson, later Lady Butler) (1846-1933), 1882.

Although the uniforms and equipment of the gun team are carefully observed, the scene of the action has not been positively identified. As the work was painted in 1882, it is most likely to represent the Egyptian War of that year. A print after the painting was published as a supplement to the Summer Number of 'The Graphic' in 1889.

The theme and composition of this painting were re-worked by Lady Butler a few years later in another study of a Royal Horse Artillery gun-team, 'Halt on a forced march: Peninsular War'. Though they are very similar, the second painting places the scene much earlier, on the retreat to Corunna (La Coruña), 1808-1809. The horses were described by the artist as 'spent horses', 'lean unto war'.

When Lady Butler began painting the second canvas in Ireland in 1891, she was unable to find suitably emaciated horses to study. However, she found plenty when she joined her husband, Colonel (later Lieutenant-General) Sir William Butler, in Egypt later that year. She believed that 'had I not been able to put the finishing touches to my team there, the picture would never have been so strong'. Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1892 (No 27), the painting was well received, but the painter was of the opinion that it did not sell because it was 'too sad a subject'.

The blistered surface of the paint indicates that the canvas has at some time been subjected to excessive heat, probably in a fire.

NAM Accession Number

NAM. 1993-05-232-1


National Army Museum, Out of Copyright


National Army Museum, Study Collection

Object URL

Browse related themes