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War art and propaganda
Among The National Archives’ extensive collections of Second World War images are hundreds of original oil paintings, drawings, posters, caricatures and portraits used by the Ministry of Information and the Central Office of Information for propaganda and publicity purposes.
A selection of images below from the INF 3 collection show original artworks commissioned for use in publications. These include an airstrike illustration produced for boys’ adventure stories and a drawing of officers at sea, which was used in Neptune magazine as well as providing the original artwork for a Merchant Navy poster.
British artists such as Terence Cuneo became renowned for their war art, which varied from oil paintings and detailed drawings in charcoal and lithographic chalk, to cartoons in black ink. Illustrations were often provided in a traditional comic style to encourage people at all levels to become involved in the war effort. Images, such as the evacuation poster below, were designed to appeal to adults remembering their own childhood, as well as those wanting to protect their own children's futures.
The government’s propaganda campaigns used a mixture of serious and humorous depictions to get the message across in all areas of life, including health, safety, efficiency and recruitment. Campaigns to save fuel on the Home Front and tighten belts post-war are shown in posters, booklets, leaflets and pamplets in INF 13.
Though the British public was often provided with sanitised images at the time of the Second World War, shielded from the most disturbing images of death and destruction, Mervyn Peake was one artist who strove to illustrate its true horrors. Here we show a one of his more symbolic representations, with a gun barrel peeking omniously through an artist’s palette.
Illustration for boys' adventure stories/images/imagelibrary/showcase/war-art/inf3-549-world-war-II-illustration-for-boys-adventure-stories.jpg
Catalogue reference: INF 3/549
The lifeline is firm, poster design for the Merchant Navy/images/imagelibrary/showcase/war-art/inf3-869-original-artwork-for-merchant-navy-poster-the-lifeline-is-firm-1939-1945.jpg
Catalogue reference: INF 3/869
George Cross Book: Albert Dolphin’s attempted rescue of a nurse, artist Terence Cuneo/images/imagelibrary/showcase/war-art/inf3-477-gc-a-e-dolphin-artist-terence-cuneo.jpg
Catalogue reference: INF 3/477
German aircraft being shot down by coastal anti-aircraft gun/images/imagelibrary/showcase/war-art/inf3-861-german-aircraft-being-shot-down-by-coastal-anti-aircraft-gun-wwII.jpg
Catalogue reference: INF 3/861
Illustration of a bomber command booklet, cover artist Roy Nockolds/images/imagelibrary/showcase/war-art/inf3-644-world-war-II-illustration-bomber-command-booklet-cover-artist-roy-nockolds.jpg
Catalogue reference: INF 3/644
Evacuation poster, Don't do it, mother/images/imagelibrary/showcase/war-art/inf13-171-(3)-evacuation-dont-do-it-mother.jpg
Catalogue reference: INF 13/171 (3)
Women for industry; Telephonists urgently wanted for the London area/images/imagelibrary/showcase/war-art/inf3-398-women-for-industry-telephonists-urgently-wanted-for-the-london-area-wwII.jpg
Catalogue reference: INF 3/398
Hitler in distress, artist Richard Ziegler/images/imagelibrary/showcase/war-art/inf3-1299-hitler-in-distress.jpg
Catalogue reference: INF 3/1299
Family (the nation) hard up after holiday, artist Clive Uptton/images/imagelibrary/showcase/war-art/inf3-1294-family-(the-nation)-hard-up-after-holiday-artist-clive-uptton-wwII.jpg
Catalogue reference: INF 3/1294
Illustration of a palette and gun barrel, artist Mervyn Peake/images/imagelibrary/showcase/war-art/inf3-645-world-war-II-illustration-pallette-and-gun-barrel-artist-mervyn-peake.jpg
Catalogue reference: INF 3/645
Fuel-saving poster, Store fuel for next winter/images/imagelibrary/showcase/war-art/inf13-146-(50)-world-war-II-poster-fuel-saving-store-fuel-for-next-winter.jpg
Catalogue reference: INF 13/146 (50)
Propaganda material for Mexico, 1943-1945/images/imagelibrary/showcase/war-art/inf2-24-(82)-propaganda-material-for-mexico-1943-1945.jpg
Catalogue reference: INF 2/24 (82)
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