RAF Museum London art exhibition to open

A new art exhibition, titled 'In Air and Fire: War Artists, the Battle of Britain and the Blitz', can be seen at the RAF Museum London from March 27. It runs until late March next year.

Graham Sutherland's 'Camouflaged Bombers', 1940. ALL IMAGES COURTESY RAF MUSEUM


The collection explores artists' responses to the Battle of Britain and the Blitz (July 1940 – May 1941) as they represented evolving machinery, communications, and urban landscapes, shaped by what was an unprecedented ‘war in the air’.  Visitors can see over 60 works of art, several of which will be on display for the first time. Entry is free and visitors to the RAF Museum will have until March 28, 2021 to view the work.

As airborne battles unfolded across the south and east of England in the summer of 1940, followed by cities’ bombardment in proceeding months, artists produced a pictorial record of the war, many of their works commissioned and purchased by Sir Kenneth Clark’s War Artists’ Advisory Committee (WAAC). The exhibition features works by Official War Artists, including Paul Nash, Graham Sutherland, Carel Weight, Anthony Gross, Richard Eurich and Eric Kennington. Yet it extends beyond the prominent male members of the British school, championed by Clark, to reflect the full range of war artists’ contributions. It seeks to bring together the stories and perspectives of artists from diverse backgrounds, highlighting the best works from the period.

Comprising around half of the curated selection, the exhibition celebrates the works of women war artists, most of whom were overlooked for commissions, whose pictures were typically purchased by the WAAC or produced for independent projects. They include Laura Knight, Doris Zinkeisen, Eve Kirk, Olga Lehmann, Rachel Reckitt, Mary Viola Paterson, Enid Abrahams, Elva Blacker, Elsie Gledstanes and Lilian Buchanan. Unofficial war artists, many involved with the relief effort of the Blitz, also contributed significant works on themes of civil defence and devastation. 

Walter Nessler's 'Premonition', 1937.
Rachel Reckitt's 'Spanish Refugees', c.1940-41