James Boswell: Unofficial War Artist
Artist(s): James Boswell
Author(s): William Feaver
Format: Paperback with flaps
Year published: 2006
Publisher: Antique Collectors Club
Publisher Location: London
Total Pages: 136
Illustrations: Includes 45 colour and 131 b&w illustrations.
1 in stock
This book is part of the centenary celebration of James Boswell’s (1906-1971) birth. His work is being honoured by displays at Tate Britain, the Prints and Drawings Gallery at the British Museum and a one man retrospective at Square One Gallery, London.
One of its most salient features is a remarkably prophetic set of anti-war satirical drawings done during Boswell’s 1943 posting to Iraq. Richard Cork has said of these, ‘I know of no parallel in English art for Boswell’s ability to expose and denigrate the senseless waste of a conflict which official war artists approached with such muted emotions. Their relevance to today’s conflict is poignant’.
Boswell, a New Zealander who came to England in 1925 to study painting, was soon involved in the radical movement of the Left and became, throughout the thirties, its most vibrant artist with fierce satirical drawings that appeared in Left Review, of which he was Art Editor, Our Time, The Daily Worker and other left wing publications. He was also a founder member of the Artists’ International Association.
The drawings are remarkable in that an outstanding artist, enlisted as a private, had the freedom and time to study and extensively draw the lives of the soldiers with whom he was serving. They are funny – Boswell has a wonderfully comic eye – and give an unprecedented picture of army life both here and in Iraq, with telling pictures of the Iraqis who were involved in the British soldiers’ daily tasks. There are also many luminous paintings of the desert which Boswell found inspirational. He left the Communist Party after the war, became Art Editor of Lilliput for four years and then returned to illustration and painting. He was commissioned to paint a large mural in The Sea and Ships Pavilion at the Festival of Britain in 1951, reproduced on the back cover, designed the posters for some Ealing Comedies, and was Art Director for the 1964 Labour Party election that brought Wilson to power.