Rare work by World War II artists marks 70th anniversary of Blitz in West End at War at SW1

By Laura Burgess | 23 November 2010
An image of a painting of a city
RG Mathews, Charing Cross Hospital (1946)© City of Westminster Archives
Exhibition: West End at War, SW1 Gallery, London, December 9 2010 – January 13 2011

September saw West End at War release rare colour footage of London during the Blitz in 1940. To continue marking the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Britain this exhibition showcases iconic work by artists who lived in and documented the capital at the time.

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the display will feature watercolour paintings of important landmarks as the changing face of London during a time of crisis.

Second World War artists RG Matthews and Vivian Pitchforth – amongst others – were commissioned to record the aftermath of the German Luftwaffe.

The city, its people and its symbolic buildings faced 57 consecutive nights of sirens, searchlights and terror.

The artwork collection, belonging to Westminster Archives, shows places such as St James's Church in Piccadilly, The Shaftesbury Theatre, and Charing Cross Hospital, all of which were badly damaged or destroyed in the raids.

Visitors can also learn about the artists through their biographies and watch colour reels filmed by Chief Air Raid Warden AE Reneson Coucher, which were recently found in an attic by his granddaughter.

The 20-minute film shows the extensive damage to department store John Lewis and casualties being treated in the aftermath of the attacks. 

For more information visit www.westendatwar.org.uk

SW1 Gallery, Cardinal Gardens, London. Open 10am-6pm (4pm Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday). Call 020 7963 4024 or visit the gallery online
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