At the beginning of the war Kenneth Clarke, Director of the National Gallery, had persuaded the Ministry of Information to establish the War Artists Advisory Scheme. Following a similar scheme in the First World War selected artists were commissioned or simply encouraged to make a record of the war as they saw it, some being given official accreditation to accompany military units to different theatres of war.
Then in the summer of 1940 the war was suddenly all around them, first mainly the air battles overhead, then the bombs exploding all over London and then the whole country. The war became a compelling subject. This is just a selection of some of the diverse work completed during this period.
Amongst the artists was Henry Moore, who had been gassed during the First World War, was initially reluctant to record the people of London enduring the Blitz.
There was tension in the air. [People] were a bit like the chorus in a Greek drama telling us about the violence we don’t actually witness.
Moore always drew his sketches from memory, not wanting to intrude on those he observed.
Later Kenneth Clark declared that he was certain that Moore’s work will ‘always be considered the greatest works of art inspired by the war’.