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This curation showcases works in the exhibition: Art of the Second World War: Commemorating 80 years since the Battle of Britain.


The exhibition is at the Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library in Preston, and will be open to visitors as soon as current Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.


Curated by Lindsey McCormick, Fine Art Curator, and Holly Nesbitt, Collections Assistant, the display focuses on Official War Artists, including 3 loans from the Imperial War Museums.


Paintings from the Imperial War Museum's rich collection will be on display during 2020-21 at the Harris, Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum in Bournemouth, The Collection in Lincoln and Touchstones Rochdale, thanks to the generous support of the Art Fund.

14 artworks
  • The Battle of Britain

    The Battle of Britain was a decisive air campaign fought over England in the summer and autumn of 1940. Flying iconic aircraft including the Spitfire, RAF pilots were supported by a highly effective network of ground crew, engineers and observation post volunteers during the battle.
    Ultimately, the German Luftwaffe was defeated, forcing Adolf Hitler to abandon his invasion plans. It was one of Britain’s most important victories of the Second World War, as it secured the Allies’ war-ending invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe some four years later.


    An Aerial Battle by Francis Dodd
    An_Aerial_Battle_JPG_jpg
    © IWM (Art.IWM ART LD 485). Photo credit: The Imperial War Museums

  • The War Artists' Advisory Committee

    In 1939 the government’s War Artist’s Advisory Committee was established to commission and purchase art that recorded the Second World War. Artists travelled all over the world recording diverse aspects of the War, military and civilian.


    At the end of the War, 5,570 works had been collected, many were dispersed to museums across the UK and Commonwealth. The remaining half were added to the Imperial War Museum’s collection. This display brings together paintings given to the Harris after the War with three paintings on loan from the Imperial War Museum.


    War Artists sticker
    War_artists_sticker_jpg
    Photo credit: Alan Buchanan

  • Local Stories From the People of Preston

    Twelve people from the Preston area have shared their memories and the stories told by their mums, dads, siblings, uncles, and grandparents about the Second World War. Displayed together, with paintings made during that time, they are an important and powerful record of some of the many experiences of the War at home and overseas.


    Artist Anthony Padgett has taken a portrait photograph of each of the participants with objects that help to tell their story. He has brought them together in a sculpture of a Spitfire, a fighter plane that was critical to the success of the Battle of Britain and which has since become an iconic symbol of the Second World War.


    All of these stories are on the Harris website.


    Art of the Second World War Display
    Art_UK_jpg
    Photo credit: Holly Nesbitt

  • An Aerial Battle

    At first glance, this unusual painting appears calm and reflective, but the pattern in the sky is the aftermath of a violent aerial battle between an RAF Fighter and German Luftwaffe. It was painted from Dodd’s garden at Blackheath Park in London.


    The white trails are hot exhaust gasses left by the aircraft engines, mixing with the cold air in the atmosphere. Aerial battles or ‘dogfights’ during the Battle of Britain often attracted spectators. In Dodd’s painting the aircraft are not visible, we don’t know the outcome, and the only observer appears to be a small black cat sitting on the garden fence. In the distance, barrage balloons are just visible above the trees, their silvery material reflecting in the sunlight.

    An Aerial Battle 1940
    Francis Dodd (1874–1949)
    Oil on canvas
    H 55.8 x W 45.7 cm
    IWM (Imperial War Museums)
    An Aerial Battle
    Photo credit: IWM (Imperial War Museums)

  • In for Repairs

    Knight’s painting shows members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) repairing a barrage balloon at RAF Wythall, near Birmingham. A quarter of a million women served in the WAAF during the Second World War. They worked in over 110 trades, supporting operations around the world.
    Barrage balloons were an important part of Britain’s air defences. They helped to protect ground targets from attack by forcing enemy aircraft to fly higher, or into the path of anti-aircraft guns. Knight described the barrage balloon as “posed like a great silver toad with a pulse in its sides”.
    As an Official War Artist, Knight was especially interested in representing women who excelled in roles traditionally carried out by men.

    In for Repairs 1942
    Laura Knight (1877–1970)
    Oil on canvas
    H 101.5 x W 127 cm
    Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library
    In for Repairs
    Photo credit: Bridgeman Images

  • Squadron Leader George L. Denholm (1909–1997), DFC

    Squadron Leader Denholm, nicknamed ‘Uncle George’, flew Spitfires during the Battle of Britain. In 1939, he and a fellow pilot were the first to shoot down an enemy bomber over British territory.


    Denholm was shot down twice but kept returning to the skies and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service. The London Gazette wrote, ‘His magnificent leadership has contributed to the success of the squadron, which has destroyed fifty-four enemy aircraft in about six weeks’.


    Dugdale was born in Blackburn. During the Second World War, he served as a platoon leader for the Home Guard in Suffolk. He was commissioned as a War Artist to paint portraits of RAF servicemen and women.

    Squadron Leader George L. Denholm (1909–1997), DFC 1940
    Thomas Cantrell Dugdale (1880–1952)
    Oil on canvas
    H 76.2 x W 63.5 cm
    IWM (Imperial War Museums)
    Squadron Leader George L. Denholm (1909–1997), DFC
    Photo credit: IWM (Imperial War Museums)

  • Burnt Out Aeroplane

    This painting depicts the skeletal remains of a burnt out Italian Savoia-Marchetti SM79 bomber. It was made from a photograph taken after a raid on Castel Benito, an airfield created by the Italian Air Force in Tripoli.


    Armstrong was commissioned by the War Artists’ Advisory Committee to make two paintings of crashed aircraft. The other is now at Manchester Art Gallery. Called September 1941, it depicts wrecks of British and German fighter planes on the south-coast.


    Armstrong’s peacetime paintings are very different in style he was interested in Surrealism and became best known for his dream-like paintings, and designs for film and theatre productions.

    Burnt Out Aeroplane 1941
    John Armstrong (1893–1973)
    Oil on canvas
    H 27.5 x W 46.5 cm
    Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library
    Burnt Out Aeroplane
    © the artist's estate / Bridgeman Images. Photo credit: Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library

  • Untitled

    A skeleton of a prehistoric mammoth dominates the composition of this painting. Behind it, jumbled images of familiar objects, such as aircraft wings and ships rigging, bring old and new together to create an imaginary landscape.


    Agar became interested in Surrealism in the 1930s, an artistic movement that favoured the creative potential of the unconscious mind and dreams over traditional representational art.


    The painting brings together natural and man-made elements. When juxtaposed, they illustrate Agar’s ideas about Britain’s identity as an island nation at a time of great uncertainty.

    Untitled c.1940
    Eileen Agar (1899–1991)
    Gouache on board
    H 34 x W 50 cm
    IWM (Imperial War Museums)
    Untitled
    © the artist's estate / Bridgeman Images. Photo credit: IWM (Imperial War Museums)

  • Inglesham Church and Rectory

    Richards served with the Royal Engineers, and in 1941 was billeted at Inglesham, a small village in Wiltshire. This painting shows the beautiful 13th century church of St John the Baptist at Inglesham.

    This smaller painting includes the rectory and nearby Church Farm. In the foreground an Army truck is hidden under camouflage netting. It is thought to be a study for the larger painting, The Minute Halt, which includes soldiers resting at the side of the road. Both paintings helped to get Richards’ work recognised by the War Artists’ Advisory Committee. He later gave them to his mother, signing them Bertie, as he was known by his family.

    Inglesham Church and Rectory
    Albert Richards (1919–1945)
    Oil on canvas (?)
    H 24 x W 31 cm
    Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library
    Inglesham Church and Rectory
    Photo credit: Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library

  • The Minute Halt

    Richards was born in Liverpool, his father George was a World War One veteran. He studied at the Royal College of Art in London for three months before being conscripted into the Army in 1940.
    After parachute training and promotion to Captain, he parachuted into Normandy on D-Day. Richards was killed in action on the night of the 5 March 1945, when he drove his jeep into an unmarked mine field in Holland. He was planning to make drawings of the retreating German troops. He told his friend that he was going to paint, what for him, was to be ‘the greatest picture of the war’. He was 25 years old.

    The Minute Halt
    Albert Richards (1919–1945)
    Oil on canvas (?)
    H 49 x W 74 cm
    Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library
    The Minute Halt
    Photo credit: Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library

  • HM Rescue Tug 'Samsonia', with Water-Boat and HM Yacht 'Martinetta'

    At the outbreak of the War, Bone enlisted with a unit at Leamington Spa to work on camouflage designs aimed at concealing important sites like power stations, factories and air fields. He was made a full-time, salaried War Artist in 1943, filling a post vacated by his father Muirhead, who had been the very first War Artist appointed.

    HM Rescue Tug 'Samsonia', with Water-Boat and HM Yacht 'Martinetta' 1944
    Stephen Bone (1904–1958)
    Oil on board
    H 25.5 x W 35.5 cm
    Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library
    HM Rescue Tug 'Samsonia', with Water-Boat and HM Yacht 'Martinetta'
    Photo credit: Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library

  • Destroyer off the Normandy Beaches

    Bone specialised in Admiralty subjects, travelling across the country painting Royal Navy bases, ships and submarines. In 1944 he witnessed the Normandy landings, and recorded Naval activity like this Destroyer. The warship used torpedoes and anti-aircraft guns to protected merchant-ship convoys and battle fleets from attack.

    Destroyer off the Normandy Beaches 1944
    Stephen Bone (1904–1958)
    Oil on board
    H 35.5 x W 50.8 cm
    Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library
    Destroyer off the Normandy Beaches
    Photo credit: Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library

  • Lieutenant (E.) R. W. Daish, RNR., Chief Engineer

    This is a portrait of Ralph William Daish, the Chief Engineer of HMS Lorna Doone. A paddle steamer requisitioned by the Admiralty as a minesweeper in 1939. The Admiralty was the government department responsible for the command of the Royal Navy.


    Dring was born in Streatham, London. He graduated at the Slade School of Art, before teaching drawing at Southampton School of Art. Dring was appointed as an official War Artist to the Admiralty in 1942.


    He travelled widely across Britain, making portraits of Naval officers. Working in soft pastel allowed Dring to get colour and detail onto the paper quickly. He took no longer than an hour to finish each portrait.

    Lieutenant (E.) R. W. Daish, RNR., Chief Engineer 1941
    William D. Dring (1904–1990)
    Pastel on board
    H 49.5 x W 37.9 cm
    Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library
    Lieutenant (E.) R. W. Daish, RNR., Chief Engineer
    Photo credit: Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library

  • Maltese Landscape (Quarry) or Malta – R.A.F. Bomb Dump

    The Siege of Malta was a military campaign to maintain control of the island, which was an important British colony and trade route to North Africa, India, and the Far East.


    Malta was one of the most heavily bombed places during the Second World War. The RAF and Royal Navy fought against German and Italian forces who attacked the island’s ports, towns and supply ships.


    Cole arrived in Malta in May 1943. He observed the end of the siege, and recorded military sites like this bomb store. He also made paintings depicting the hardship and cruel conditions endured by Malta’s civilian population.

    Maltese Landscape (Quarry) or Malta – R.A.F. Bomb Dump 1943
    Leslie Cole (1910–1976)
    Watercolour on paper
    H 50.5 x W 72 cm
    Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library
    Maltese Landscape (Quarry) or Malta – R.A.F. Bomb Dump
    Photo credit: Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library

  • Church of St Pierre, Boulogne

    In June 1944, Hennell was sent to Portsmouth to record preparations for D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy. Soon after, he was across the English Channel making watercolour sketches of troops on the Normandy beaches.


    The coastal town of Boulogne was badly bombed by the RAF during the invasion. In August, Hitler declared the town a “fortress”, but in September the town was liberated by the Canadian Army. This painting of the town’s church in ruins is a poignant reminder of the suffering and destruction endured by so many during the Second World War.

    Church of St Pierre, Boulogne 1944
    Thomas Hennell (1903–1945)
    Watercolour on paper
    H 50.1 x W 41.2 cm
    Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library
    Church of St Pierre, Boulogne
    Photo credit: Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library

  • Marlag 'O' in Winter

    At the start of the Second World War, Worsley joined the Royal Navy. His drawings of life at sea caught the attention of the War Artists’ Advisory Committee, and he was appointed as a full-time war artist.
    In 1943 Worsley was captured by the Germans and detained at Marlag ‘O’, a prisoner-of-war camp. He continued to paint at the camp, documenting prison life using materials provided by the Red Cross. The tin cans were re-used for a variety of purposes, in Worsley’s case to safely carry his pictures to freedom in April 1945.
    His skills as an artist were employed to forge identity papers. He also made a life-sized mannequin called Albert during an ingenious escape attempt, which in 1953 was made into a film, Albert R.N.

    Marlag 'O' in Winter 1945
    John Worsley (1919–2000)
    Watercolour on paper
    H 28.9 x W 41.5 cm
    Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library
    Marlag 'O' in Winter
    Photo credit: Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library

  • Women's Land Army at Work

    The Women’s Land Army worked in agriculture, replacing male farm workers who were called up for military service. Created during the First World War, this civilian organisation was reformed at the beginning of the Second World War, and by 1944 had over 80,000 members.
    Known as ‘Land Girls’, they were critical to Britain’s food production, providing much needed help for farmers across the country.

    Bateman came from a farming family in Kendal. He was best known for his paintings of country life and would have been familiar with scenes like this pig shed. The War Artists’ Advisory Committee commissioned artists to document all kinds of war work, at home and overseas.

    Women's Land Army at Work 1940
    James Bateman (1893–1959)
    Oil on canvas
    H 45.7 x W 61 cm
    Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library
    Women's Land Army at Work
    © the copyright holder. Photo credit: Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library