The War Artists Advisory Committee

The original war artists scheme was administered by the Department of Information during the First World War. The scheme commissioned most of the best British artists of the period, including Paul Nash, CRW Nevinson and Wyndham Lewis. During the Second World War, the scheme was resurrected by the Ministry of Information at the instigation of Sir Kenneth Clark, then Director of the National Gallery. Clark chaired the Committee whose brief was 'to draw up a list of artists qualified to record the war at home and abroad… to advise on the selection of artists on this list for war purposes and on the arrangements for their employment'. Officially, at least, the purpose of the Committee was a propaganda one, and art exhibitions were organised in Britain and America both to raise morale and promote Britain's image abroad, but Clark's generation was marked by the deaths of many artists and writers in the First World War, and there was a private desire among some of those involved in the formation of the WAAC that the scheme should keep artists usefully employed and preserve a generation of British artists from being killed. However, the artists themselves did not shirk the dangers of war and three artists, Eric Ravilious, Thomas Hennell and Albert Richards, were killed in the course of their work.

The Committee commissioned such artists as Henry Moore, John Piper, Graham Sutherland and Stanley Spencer to record the effects of the Blitz and the war effort on the Home Front. Other artists were sent to the theatres of war in North Africa, Europe and the Far East, notably the watercolourists Anthony Gross, Edward Bawden and Edward Ardizzone.