War artists record the Blitz and its impact on people

Harry Bush 'A Corner of Merton, August 16th 1940'.

Harry Bush ‘A Corner of Merton, August 16th 1940’.

Anthony Gross, 'Fire in a Paper Warehouse', 1940. After returning to London from France in July 1940, Gross began recording the Blitz in London including air raid shelters in Chelsea, bombed buildings and wrecked water mains.

Anthony Gross, ‘Fire in a Paper Warehouse’, 1940.
After returning to London from France in July 1940, Gross began recording the Blitz in London including air raid shelters in Chelsea, bombed buildings and wrecked water mains.

E.Boye Uden 'A Large Fire near the Thames, October 1940'

E.Boye Uden ‘A Large Fire near the Thames, October 1940’

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.

Joseph Gray,  'Battle of Britain: The First Blitz', 1940

Joseph Gray, ‘Battle of Britain: The First Blitz’, 1940

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’.

'Basement shelter' by Henry Moore from his Wartime Sketchbook.

'The Shelter Marshal Looks Over His Flock' One of the Shelter Marshals is seen having a look round. It is his job to see that all who use the shelter behave considerately.

‘The Shelter Marshal Looks Over His Flock’ One of the Shelter Marshals is seen having a look round. It is his job to see that all who use the shelter behave considerately.

Clifford Hall 'Homeless' 1940

Clifford Hall ‘Homeless’ 1940

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Earlier in the war:

Later in the war: