War Paint Art, War, State and Identity in Britain, 1939-1945


ISBN: 9780300108903
Artist(s): Various
Author(s): Brain Foss
Format: hardback
Edition: First
Year published: 2008
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publisher Location: London
Total Pages: 264 pages
Illustrations: 210 illustrations, 35 in colour

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In this groundbreaking examination of British war art during the Second World War, Brian Foss delves deeply into what art meant to Britain and its people at a time when the nation’s very survival was under threat. Foss probes the impact of war art on the relations between art, state patronage, and public interest in art, and he considers how this period of duress affected the trajectory of British Modernism. Supported by some two hundred illustrations and extensive archival research, the book offers the richest, most nuanced view of mid-century art and artists in Britain yet written. The author focuses closely on the War Artists’ Advisory Committee, arguably the most influential organization promoting the visual arts during the war, and whose notable participants included Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland, Paul Nash, and John Piper. Headed by Sir Kenneth Clark, the WAAC powerfully shaped wartime and post-war expectations about the place of art in the modern state. With lively discussion of censorship, artists’ finances and prospects during the war, how women were depicted as war workers, and how the war art project contributed to evolving notions of national identity and Britishness, the book adds new dimensions to our understanding of British art and cultural history.


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