The Imagery of War

9 May - 27 August, Octagon Gallery

Medallic Art and Warfare


The award of medals first became a normal part of British military life in the nineteenth century, although there had been some medals for military service as early as the sixteenth century. Medals were often designed by engravers of the Royal Mint, who were skilled in the use of images from the Classical art of the ancient world. Naturalistic depictions of warfare and Art Nouveau challenged the Classical tradition and German artists used a savagely satirical style to comment on the horrors of war.

The Lester Watson Collection


This Exhibition has been mounted to celebrate the donation by Mr and Mrs L. Hoyt Watson of the outstanding collection of British Military medals formed by Mr Watson’s father, Lester Watson. The collection has been donated to Cambridge in America and deposited at the Fitzwilliam Museum.


Lester Watson (1889-1959), an investment banker in Boston, Mass., started collecting in 1904 when his uncle gave him his first medal. He acquired most of the medals during the 1920s, some from US dealers, but mainly bought from the London firms Baldwins, Spink and Seaby during his visits to Britain. The collection is remarkable for its systematic representation of gallantry and campaign medals awarded to British servicemen during the period 1791-c. 1930. It has many rarities, including no fewer than two VCs and its New Zealand equivalent, of which only twenty-three have been awarded.

The Fitzwilliam Museum : Medals and the Collection

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Imagery of War

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