'Dawn of Waterloo'. The 'Reveille' in the bivouac of the Scots Greys on the morning of the battle, 1815
Oil on canvas, signed with initials and dated lower left '18 EB 95', by Lady Butler (Elizabeth Southerden Butler, née Thompson), 1895, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1895.
This painting depicts the 2nd (or Royal North British) Dragoons (known as the Scots Greys) at the Reveille on the battlefield of Waterloo on the morning of 18 June 1815. On that day, the regiment took part in the famous charge of the Union Brigade, which was immortalised by the Lady Butler in another of her works, 'Scotland For Ever!'. The Scots Greys played a crucial role in the Battle of Waterloo, which brought an end to the Napoleonic Wars and thwarted the Emperor's attempt to dominate Europe.
Contrasting with her view of the dramatic and heroic cavalry advance, in this painting Lady Butler has created a quiet and poignant reminder of the human cost of battle. The regiment suffered a terrible loss of life that day - of 416 men of the regiment who went into battle, 102 died and a further 97 were wounded. This painting displays the artist's empathy for soldiers, focusing on the last dawn that many of them were to see. In her autobiography Lady Butler wrote, ' I never painted for the glory of war, but to portray its pathos and heroism'.
The National Army Museum holds eight preliminary sketches by Lady Butler, in which she worked up the composition for this painting (NAM. 1963-11-193).
NAM Accession Number
Purchased with the assistance of the Art Fund and the NAM Development Trust.
National Army Museum, Out of Copyright
National Army Museum, Conflict in Europe gallery