British artists and the Second World War, with particular reference to the War Artists' Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Information
The War Artists' Advisory Committee, under the chairmanship of Kenneth Clark, was established in November 1939 by the Ministry of Information 'to draw up a list of artists qualified to record the [Second World] war at home and abroad ..., to advise on the selection of artists from the list for War purposes and [to] advise on such questions as copyright, disposal and exhibition of works and the publication of reproductions.' It ceased operation at the end of 1945, after which time two other committees supervised the final acquisitions, and the distribution of the WAAC collection to museums and other institutions in Britain and abroad. Some 5887 paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures were eventually secured by means of funds administered by the Committee. This thesis constitutes the first systematic study of the formation of the Committee, its aims and objectives, and its policies and activities. Its often stormy relationship with the Ministry of Information is considered, with particular emphasis on disagreements over the validity of using for propaganda purposes the paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures acquired by the Committee. An analysis of the works acquired by the WAAC indicates areas in which its collecting policies betrayed unevenness or bias. The partial (if unofficial) role of the Committee as a body attempting to ensure the wartime employment of artists in capacities appropriate to their skills is considered in relation to the prospects of artists from c.1935 to 1945. Other forms of wartime employment - with government ministries, with the Armed Services, or with projects organised by individuals and institutions concerned with artists' welfare - are briefly described, and their degrees of effectiveness evaluated.