Artist William Frederick Longstaff was born in Ballarat, Australia in 1879. He studied at Grenville College and Ballarat School of Mines before joining the military and serving in the Boer War with the South African Light Horse Regiment. Upon returning to Australia, William continued to paint and teach art until the outbreak of the First World War. He served with the Australian Imperial Force and was injured at the Gallipoli Campaign. In October 1915 he joined a remount unit and served in France and Egypt before being evacuated to England in 1917. William was appointed as an Official War Artist in 1918 and produced a number of works relating to the final campaigns of the Western Front.
William remained in England after the First World War and settled down in Sussex. Towards the end of the 1920’s he made a trip to the battlefields of Belgium and France painting haunted scenes in a spiritual style. His most famous work, ‘Menin Gate at Midnight’ (1927) depicts a host of ghostly soldiers marching in front of the Menin Gate. William painted the work after attending the unveiling of the Menin Gate memorial in July 1927. The painting was purchased by Lord Woolavington and thereafter presented for a Royal viewing for George V and the Royal family at Buckingham Palace before going on display in Manchester and Glasgow. It was later taken to Australia and admired by record crowds before being housed within the Australian War Memorial Art Collection.