Showcasing the very best of Royal Museums Greenwich’s collection of First and Second World War art, this new programme of displays in the Queen’s House includes visually arresting and moving portraits, battle scenes, and depictions of everyday life during conflict, by artists including: Leslie Cole, Eric Ravilious, Richard Eurich, Norman Wilkinson, Stephen Bone, William Dring, John Worsley, Gladys E Reed, John Kingsley Cook and Charles Wheeler.
Paintings and Sculpture (15 February 2014 – February 2015)
Charged with the task of revealing a ‘truth’ that went beyond the simple recording of events, official war art served the purposes of commemoration, instruction, documentation and propaganda as well as raising morale at home and on the front line. These four rooms examine the home front, action at sea, life above and below deck and the faces of war though exemplary works by Eurich, Wilkinson, Bone and Wheeler, among others. The paintings explore unusual viewpoints and poignant stories, taking the visitor from Everett’s dramatic depiction of a convoy of merchant ships in 1918, to Bone’s impressionistic eyewitness portrayal of the Allied Landings in Normandy in 1944. Other images reveal the faces and day-to-day lives of those at war from intimate snapshots of life on-board submarines, to moving posthumous portraits of Victoria Cross holders.
Works on Paper: William Dring, Gladys E Reed, John Kingsley Cook and John Worsley (15 March – 15 July 2014)
Two rooms are devoted to sketches, pastels and watercolours, all of which tell a personal story of war. William Dring was a portraitist and an official war artist to the Admiralty and Air Ministry; his works predominantly in pastel captured the faces of distinguished war heroes and young naval servicemen with the same psychological intensity. The highly talented but as yet unknown Gladys E Reed provides a contrast to the well-documented Dring, and her intimate sketches, made throughout her service as a Wren on her ‘off-watch’ time reveal what life was like for women working during the war.
Works by Worsley and Cook represent their shared but very different experiences of life in prisoner-of-war camps and on-board ships. John Worsley was the youngest official war artist in the Royal Navy, but his confidence shines through the vivid watercolours and illustrations of his time spent in captivity in a naval officers’ prisoner-of-war camp in Germany. John Kingsley Cook was not an official war artist, but his championing of the merchant navy is depicted through on-the-spot sketches, contemporary to the events he experienced, as well as retrospective drawings made from memory.
Works on Paper: Everett and Ravilious (15 August – 15 December 2014)
The themes of Modern British Art and the War at Sea make up the focus of two rooms displaying works by First and Second World War artists. The first room is devoted to John Everett, an official First World War artist and a practical deep-water sailor. Everett’s work showcases his interest in, and interpretation of, the military’s use of ‘dazzle’ - a colourful camouflaging technique used to disguise ships. At his death in 1949, he bequeathed all remaining maritime works in his possession to the National Maritime Museum which holds the most important collection of his paintings and works on paper in the world. The second room concentrates on Second World War artists’ responses to modernity, among them Eric Ravilious, one of the few official war artists to be killed whilst on duty. Ravilious was inspired by themes of art and industry, shown in the exhibition through a selection of sketches and prints, including his striking Submarine Series. Other Second World War artists featured include Stephen Bone, Barnett Freedman, Roland Pitchforth and Thomas Hennell.