Sunday, April 08, 2012

Charles Masterman and modern British art

Tall Tales from the Trees is written by Colin Salter, who turns out to be a distant relative of this blog's hero Charles Masterman.

In a post yesterday he wrote about Masterman's role in British propaganda during World War I:
One of his successes there was the introduction of the concept of the War Artist. In the last two years of the war he sent more than ninety artists to make a visual record of events in Europe. 
Although there were limitations on what they could exhibit during the war, they were given a fairly free hand in what and where they could paint. The long term legacy of the artists, who included Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash and Augustus John, is an important one.
I have read that the British made a conscious effort to ally themselves with modern art in WWI to emphasise that they were on the side of freedom and progress. Similarly, I have seen it argued the CIA is supposed to have encouraged Abstract Expressionism during the Cold War to make Soviet Socialist Realism look even more out of the mainstream.

Whatever the truth of these claims, this is a good place to point out that, perhaps as a result of Masterman's innovation, the art galleries at the Imperial War Museum are an unexpectedly good place for lovers of 20th-century British art to visit.

Salter also introduces us to Charles' brother Walter S. Masterman. Imprisoned for embezzlement while working as a fishery inspector in Grimsby, he later reinvented himself as a successful crime novelist.

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