Unspeakable, the artist as witness to the Holocaust

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Eric Taylor

'I drew the dead and scarcely living people when Belsen concentration camp was overrun, and I witnessed at first hand all the other appalling horrors of war.'

Eric Taylor
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Eric Taylor, A Living Skeleton at Belsen Concentration Camp
A Living Skeleton at Belsen
Concentration Camp
, 1945
watercolour, Imperial War
Museum
Eric Taylor, Human Wreckage at Belsen Concentration Camp
Human Wreckage at Belsen Concentration Camp, 1945
watercolour, Imperial War Museum

Eric Taylor was born in 1909 in London. He trained at the Royal College of Art and the Central School of Art , and at the outbreak of war he was already an established painter and printmaker. In 1939, he enlisted to serve with the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers.

He took part in the 1944 Normandy landings and crossed the Rhine into Germany. He was among the first liberators to arrive at Belsen. His drawings from 1944 and 1945 document the wreckage left behind by the war; these images of the aftermath of liberation culminated in the drawings he made at Belsen.

Taylor was one of several artists who saw the camp shortly after it was liberated. Human degradation on such a scale was difficult to portray, and the most potent images focus on single figures. In Liberated from Belsen Concentration Camp, Taylor captures the state of numbed emotion, common to so many survivors.

Eric Taylor died in 1999.

'I drew the dead and scarcely living people when Belsen concentration camp was overrun, and I witnessed at first hand all the other appalling horrors of war. To me, any attempt to explain in words the overall influence of this experience on my work appears to weaken what I endeavor to say in my painting or sculpture. It means so very much.'

Eric Taylor

All images copyright
All images copyright the Imperial War Museum, rights reserved.