War Artists 1939-1945

War Artists 1939-1945

During the Second World War, the British government took a more structured approach to collecting official war art than it had during the First World War.

The Ministry of Information set up the War Artists' Scheme (W.A.S) in 1939. It was devised by Sir Kenneth Clark, the then Director of the National Gallery and the dominant figure of the British art world.

The Ministry's War Artists Advisory Committee (W.A.A.C) administered the scheme. Headed by Clark, its brief was 'to draw up a list of artists qualified to record the war at home and abroad, to advise on the selection of artists on this list for war purposes and on the arrangements for their employment'.

Before the end of 1939, the committee had a budget of 5,000. It had also assigned prominent artists to the Admiralty, the War Office and the Air Ministry. The Committee employed 30 full-time artists at any one time. Specific commissions were given to another 100 artists and the work of a further 200 artists was also bought. Other artists worked unofficially.

The Blitz was a source of inspiration for many artists. John Piper, Graham Sutherland, Henry Moore, Paul Nash, Stanley Spencer, Carel Weight, Evelyn Dunbar and Laura Knight were among artists commissioned to record the effects of the Blitz and the war effort on the home front.

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