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.
Edward Ardizzone (1900-1979)
Edward Jeffrey Irving Ardizzone, CBE, RA (16 October 1900 – 8 November 1979) was an English artist and creator of children's books.
For Tim All Alone (Oxford, 1956), which he wrote and illustrated, Ardizzone won the inaugural Kate Greenaway Medal from the Library Association, recognising the year's best children's book illustration by a British subject. For the 50th anniversary of the Medal (1955–2005) it was named one of the top ten winning works, selected by a panel to compose the ballot for a public election of the all-time favourite.
In World War II Ardizzone worked as an full-time, official war artist assigned to the War Office by the War Artists' Advisory Committee. He first served with the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium before being evacuated back to Britain. In January 1942 he recorded the arrival of American troops in Northern Ireland. Later that year he went to North Africa and joined the British First Army on its march to Tunisia and then joined the Eighth Army. After El Alamein he went to France during the Allied invasion and then on to Sicily. He witnessed the fall of both Reggio Calabria and Naples, and spent the winter of 1944 in Italy before travelling to Germany. His early experiences between Arras and Boulogne are illustrated and described in his book Baggage to the Enemy (London 1941).
An extensive collection of his war pictures, as well as his wartime diaries, can be seen at The Imperial War Museum.
His style is naturalistic but subdued, featuring gentle lines and delicate watercolours, but with great attention to particular details. He was elected to the Royal Academy of Arts in 1970, and appointed CBE in 1971. The British Library published an illustrated bibliography of his works in 2003. A blue plaque unveiled in 2007 commemorates Ardizzone at 130 Elgin Avenue in Maida Vale.
See all works by Edward Ardizzone