Approaching Thunder: 1940s British Prints and Drawings

Sat 25 Feb - Sun 19 Nov

This exhibition draws from The Hepworth Wakefield’s outstanding collection of 1940s British works on paper, revisiting a decade of anxiety, austerity and idealism that resonates strongly with our lives today. With materials strictly rationed and the art market in crisis, leading artists such as John Piper, Graham Sutherland and Edward Bawden turned to the inexpensive medium of paper.

Although a substantial number of works in the show were produced under the patronage of Kenneth Clark’s War Artists Advisory Committee, these images are in marked contrast to the idealised state propaganda embodied in the art of Nazi Germany. Though government-regulated, the works exhibited here convey individual and subjective experience, exploring ordinary lives under extraordinary shared circumstances. Figures are lost in thought or absorbed in their labours; intricately described landscapes reveal devastation but also the lingering vitality of the natural world. Perhaps reflecting this move to a renewed social engagement, public interest in modern art soared across the country.

A small group of Henry Moore’s shelter drawings form a particular highlight, while a selection of illustrated books show modernist artists using low-cost lithography to circulate their work across a broad social spectrum.

To accompany this exhibtion there will be a series of talks:

Sat 23 Sept, 12.30 – 3.30pm
Book your place online

£15 / £10 Members / £7.50 Students†

Part of Wakefield LitFest.

Explore the connections between modernist writing, drawing, printmaking and publishing between 1939 and 1950 through talks and discussion featuring researchers Sophie Hatchwell (University of Bristol), Gill Saunders (Victoria and Albert Museum, London), Sara Wasson (University of Lancaster), and chaired by The Hepworth Wakefield Assistant Curator Hilary Floe.

This study day will touch upon the shared concerns of artists and writers at the time, from trauma and austerity to national identities and stylistic revivalism.†
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Images left to right: Henry Moore, Four Grey Sleepers, 1941. © The Hepworth Wakefield (Wakefield Permanent Art Collection); Leslie Cole, W.A.A.F.s Working inside a Balloon, 1941. Watercolour. Presented by His Majesty’s Government and the War Artists Advisory Committee in 1947 © The Hepworth Wakefield (Wakefield Permanent Art Collection); John Piper, Glaslyn and Crib Goch [detail], 1950. Gouache and ink © The Hepworth Wakefield (Wakefield Permanent Art Collection); John Minton, St. Florent, Corsica, 1947. Pen and ink on paper © The Hepworth Wakefield (Wakefield Permanent Art Collection)


  • 25 February 2017 - 01 January 2018