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Edward Ardizzone (1900-1979):
Shelter Scene, 1941
Unmounted (ref: 6193)
25 3/4 x 39 in. (65.5 x 99 cm)
Exhibited: WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Morley College London, 28 October -23 November 2016, cat 143.
Literature: WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Edited by Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2016, cat 143, page 184.
Published by the National Gallery, 1941, printed by The Baynard Press on machine glaze wartime paper.
44000 people had been killed in Britain by the summer of 1941 - more than had at the point been killed in combat on the front line. This shows the Tilbury shelter, (a subject also drawn by Henry Moore) under the railway arches at Stepney, which was estimated to offer protection to as many as 16,000 people on some nights during the Blitz.
Ardizonne was appointed as an Official War Artist a year after the start of the war - his commission lasted until September 1945. His work during this period concentrated on the human element of the conflict, depicting soldiers and civilians going about their daily routines with a predominantly cheery air. This contrasts with Henry Moore's altogether grimmer depiction of the same subject - he noted in an aid memoire after visiting Tilbury shelter: 'dramatic, dismal lit, masses of reclining figures fading to perspective point.... chaotic foreground¿ Dark wet settings'.
During WW2 was an ambiguous attitude toward the depiction of horror - Some artists simply unwilling to engage: ‘little to see and less to draw” was all Ardizzone had to say when he came across a street in Italy strewn with dead bodies.. The
WAAC expressed concern to Carel Weight about depictions of panic in of his 1941 air raid pictures.