Life during wartime

Friday 4 September 2015


A new exhibition revealing the Second World War through the eyes of Scottish artists is to open at the University of St Andrews this weekend (Saturday 5 September 2015).

Recording Scotland: World War II Through Artists’ Eyes examines the impact of the war on artists who took part in the wartime artistic documentary project, Recording Scotland.

Their personal stories and the artworks – to be displayed at the University’s Gateway Galleries – provide a revealing insight into the relationship between art and war.

Several of the Recording Scotland artists featured in the new exhibition, such as James Miller, Alexander Macpherson and Alan Ian Ronald, were also official war artists.

The exhibition showcases artworks from the University’s Recording Scotland Collection, and sits alongside Recording Britain: Life and Landscape during World War II currently on showat the University’s museum, MUSA.

Works from both collections (works from Recording Britain are on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum) have never been publicly displayed together before.

Claire Robinson, Collections and Exhibitions Curator, said: “For many of the 47 artists who took part in the Recording Scotland project, the war had a major impact on their lives and careers. This exhibition explores how war art initiatives, such as Recording Scotland and the government’s British War Artists Schemes, provided artists with income and opportunities that may never have been available during peacetime.”

Launched during the Second World War in 1942, the Recording Scotland scheme was designed to provide employment for artists during the war and was also created in response to fears about the threats posed to the nation’s historic scenes, sites and buildings. These threats ranged from enemy action, such as aerial bombing, to growing urbanisation, industry and motor transport.

Funded by the Pilgrim Trust, the initiative was guided by the vision of Sir James Colquhoun Irvine, who was Chairman of the Recording Scotland Committee and Principal of the University of St Andrews.

The St Andrews exhibition, which runs until 27 February 2016,highlights the many artists who were compelled to record their experiences of the war, and the emotions that their work inspired for future generations.

Claire continued: “The exhibition considers the effect of the Second World War on the working practices of the Recording Scotland artists. Whilst sketching outdoors near military and coastal sites, artists were often suspected of being spies by the military, police and civilians. Art materials were sometimes in short supply due to the rationing of raw materials.

“Like most of the population, the artists took on wartime roles to ‘do their bit’ for the war effort. The artists David Foggie and Margaret Wright were inspired to document the daily reality of life on the wartime home front. For Aleksander Zyw, who was the official war artist to the Polish Armed Forces in Britain, the war changed his life and artistic career forever.”

The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, is complemented by a series of events for families and adults, details of which can be found on the museum events page.

The Gateway Galleries is a temporary exhibition venue in the Gateway Building, North Haugh. There are around four exhibitions each year drawing from the University’s or other collections. Further details can be found on the museum websiteRecording Scotland: World War II Through Artists’ Eyes takes place from 5 September 2015 to 27 February 2016. Opening times are Monday to Friday: 9am – 3.45pm, Saturday 12 – 4pm. Recording Britain: Life and Landscape during World War II runs at MUSA until 6 December 2015.

News page image: Alan Ian Ronald, Red RowLimekilns (HC106; detail) Copyright University of St Andrews

This page image: Charles Oppenheimer, White Gables, Kirkcudbright, about 1920-1942 (HC77; detail) Copyright University of St Andrews

News archive page image: David Foggie, Women’s Work, Pittenweem, about 1920-1942 (HC39; detail) Copyright University of St Andrews

Note to editors:

Claire Robinson, Collections and Exhibitions Curator, is available for interview via: [email protected] or 01334 461683.

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