This beautiful book describes the lives & careers of some of the many women war artists who produced work during World War One & Two. Catherine Speck is Professor of Art History at the University of Adelaide & she has brought together the work of 62 artists from Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Canada & the US. All were professionally trained but rarely officially employed or sanctioned. Official schemes employing war artists were dominated by men working in the field & on the front line. The paintings, drawings & photographs produced by women artists concentrate on the Home Front but also include scenes in factories, the women’s services & hospitals. There are some famous names here – Margaret Preston, Laura Knight, Lee Miller, Stella Bowen. More often, I’d never heard of the artist but the work reproduced in this book is always interesting & often very moving.
I haven’t had a chance to read the whole book & I’ve had to return it to the library because it was reserved so here are just a few pictures showing the wide range of work & subject matter in Beyond the Battlefield.
This is Sybil Craig’s picture of women working in a cordite factory in Maribyrnong, Melbourne in 1945.
Olive Mudie-Cooke was a British artist who was in the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) during WWI & served in France & Italy. I love this watercolour on brown paper of an ambulance. After the war, she was commissioned to produce this work of her time as a nurse.
Ethel Gabain was commissioned during WWII to document the aftermath of bombing raids in London. This is called Bombed Out Bermondsey, 1941.
This is a famous picture by Dame Laura Knight, Corporal J D M Pearson, GC, WAAF, 1940. Daphne Pearson was the first woman to receive the George Cross for gallantry. She rescued a pilot from his burning aircraft when it crashed on landing at an airfield in Kent. when the plane’s bombs exploded, she sheltered the pilot with her body & used her steel helmet to protect his head.
I’ve put myself back in the reservation queue for this book as I’ve only had a chance to skim the surface of the fascinating stories of the women artists that Catherine Speck has researched & recovered from obscurity.