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Military life beyond active service is not common in painting. The principal exception is the work commissioned by the war artist schemes of the First and Second World Wars which recorded all aspects of wartime activity, the training and leisure activities of servicemen and women and, most movingly, life in prison camps and hospitals.

Soldiers and sailors have of course been part of society at all times: Dutch and Flemish artists depicted the ordinary life of soldiers, as in Teniers’ A Soldier Cleaning a Flintlock, and their nineteenth-century followers continued the tradition. The glamour of historical uniforms attracted the popular nineteenth-century French artist Meissonier to specialise in scenes of sixteenth-century soldiers at play, like The Lost Game.