Barrage Balloons and Searchlights, circa 1941
Framed (ref: 7256)
Watercolour, india ink, pencil, and chalk
13 3/4 x 15 1/2 in. (35 x 39.3 cm)
Tags: Louis Keene war World War II Paintings by British Artists
Provenance: The Artists daughter, Canada.
Exhibited: WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Morley College London, 28 October -23 November 2016, cat 34.
Literature: WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Edited by Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2016, cat 34, page 71.
As Commanding Officer of the Lorne Scots during WW2 Keene witnessed the bombing of Liverpool and London. According to an article in the Evening Standard (May 29, 1942), his paintings, including a vivid incendiary bomb picture were included in the National Gallery show of May 1942. His obituary (Oakville, 8 May 1972) reported, While in England Col. Keene did some paintings of the air raids and these were later purchased by the British government. Some of his wartime paintings were also sold to the Canadian government.
Favouring nighttime views, (illuminated by searchlights, fires and bombs) his pictures are often characterised by a surreal feeling, heightened by the use of shallow perspectives and intense colours.
NELSON WONDERS; TRAFALGAR SQUARE, LONDON, 1940;
Canadian War Museum
"The Awakening"; Liverpool. May, 1941.
Canadian War Museum
Despite the presence of barrage balloons and searchlights German bombers
often successfully penetrated the Barrage Balloons and Searchlights. Once
a fire got started, a breeze might blow burning fragments onto other
undamaged properties and start new fires there, indicated by
the thin red streaks of burning debris carried towards the
Bringing down high-flying German aircraft at night was no easy matter for the
ground forces and vast amounts of ammunition were expended in the effort.
The blazing build was clearly positioned near to a public park or other open
space from which balloons were deployed, many of them operated by
Women's Auxiliary Air Force personnel. Light anti-aircraft defences are also
in action as indicated by the exploding shells bursting in yellow at high
For dramatic effect
Keene's impression combines the elements of night-time
defence more closely than in reality they would have appeared.
We are grateful to Andrew Cormack for assistance.