Witness: Revealing Women War Artists exhibition at Imperial War Museum London

By Culture24 Staff | 08 March 2011
a painting of a woman leaning over a lathe in a factory workshop
Dame Laura Knight, (RA) (1877 - 1970) Ruby Loftus screwing a Breech-ring. 1943© Imperial War Museum
Exhibition: Witness: Women War Artists, Imperial War Museum, London, from April 2011

It’s one of the defining images of women in World War Two: Dame Laura Knight’s Ruby Loftus, hard at work at her lathe, encapsulates both the propaganda view of women’s role in the war effort and a reality that saw thousands of women take up skilled jobs in the factories.

The famous portrait will be joining other defining paintings and artworks by women this April as Imperial War Museum’s exhibition celebrating women’s art opens at their London HQ.

a large painting showing a group of women in a factory canteern
Flora Lion (1878 - 1958) Women's Canteen at Phoenix Works, Bradford 1918, Oil on canvas© Imperial War Museum
Witness: Women War Artists first opened at Imperial War Museum North in 2009 and focuses on Women’s art from the First World War up to the Kosovo conflict.

Key pieces going on show from IWM’s world renowned art collection include works by Anna Airy, one of the first women officially commissioned during the First World War, as well as Linda Kitson, Frauke Eigen and Mary Kessell.

A woman’s eye view of conflict, the exhibition offers a fascinating opportunity to look at how the work of women artists has evolved – from home front depictions such as Flora Lion’s Women’s Canteen at Phoenix Works (1918) to powerful representations of the front line. 

a very dark pencil drawing showing women and children as refugees
Mary Kessell (1914 - 1977). Waiting for the Train on the Anhalter Bahnhof, Berlin. December 1945, Charcoal on paper© Imperial War Museum
Back in the First World War Olive Mudie-Cooke actually served as a volunteer ambulance driver on the Western Front, and her watercolours of wounded soldiers have the authority of more famous male war artists such as Nevinson and Nash.

Similarly, Linda Kitson’s sketches from the Falklands War have an immediacy reflecting proximity to the sharp end of warfare.
More on the venues and organisations we've mentioned:
  • Back to top
  • | Print this article
  • | Email this article
  • | Bookmark and Share