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Falklands War 1982, Linda Kitson's artistic record

'Disembarkation Meeting' by Linda Kitson
Linda Kitson was commissioned in April 1982 and sailed on the QE2 with British troops bound for the Falklands. The QE2 was part of a naval task force sent by the British government to defend the Falkland Islands against Argentinean invasion. Initially it was expected that Kitson would go only as far as Ascension Island, the refuelling point for the British forces on their way to the South Atlantic, but in the event she remained at sea and disembarked with the troops at San Carlos.

She followed the progress of the British forces across the island to Port Stanley and returned to Britain in July 1982, having been away for three months.

During this time Linda Kitson made over 400 drawings, working swiftly in conté crayon, sometimes in sub-zero temperatures. Her drawings record the experiences of the soldiers in training and briefings on the QE2 and SS Canberra, during disembarkation and behind the lines. She was usually three or four days behind the action and therefore witnessed little of the fighting or its consequences. With hindsight she felt that the 'horrors of war' were best left to the photographers anyway, and that she did her best work recording the daily life of the troops and the conditions in which they had to operate.

Kitson returned to Britain after the re-taking of the Falklands but well before the return of the troops and an exhibition of her many drawings was organised at great speed in November 1982 in order to capitalise on public interest in the war. The art press ignored her works and journalistic commentators were critical of them because they felt they were `sketches' rather than 'finished' paintings. This in turn prompted debate about public expectations of war art and its relevance to contemporary life. However, the general public found her work accessible and all the drawings in the exhibition were sold.

The Imperial War Museum accepted sixty drawings at the completion of Kitson's commission. The drawings were exhibited at the Imperial War Museum, November 1982 - February 1983, and a selection was then toured in the UK in response to demand from regional galleries.

Further Reading The Falklands War: A Visual Diary by Linda Kitson, Mitchell Beazley, 1982.
Press Cuttings Archive, Department of Art, IWM
The Falklands Factor: Representations of a Conflict, Manchester City Art Gallery exhibition catalogue, 1988/89.
Framing the Falklands War: Nationhood, Culture and Identity edited by James Aulich, Open University Press, 1992.
   
Other Collections The IWM Sound Archive has a recorded interview with the artist.
The Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton.
   
Photographic Reference All the drawings were photographed in black and white and the full photographic record, including those drawings now in the Museum's collection, can be consulted in the Print Room. Black and white reference photographs of IWM works may be ordered from the Department of Art.