Thursday, November 30, 2023

Charles Masterman and the Imperial War Museum's art collection

Embed from Getty Images

If you are interested in 20th-century British art then one of the best places in London to visit is, perhaps unexpectedly, the Imperial War Museum.

An old book review in the Washington Post explains why this is the case:

Yet, amid the carnage, civilization survived. The Liberal politician Charles Masterman, who headed the British government’s propaganda arm, recruited artists to record their impressions of war. Masterman did not want paintings that would inspire in the short term but rather works that would educate 100 years hence. 
"Paint anything you like," he told his artists. What resulted was the sublime collection of paintings now housed at the Imperial War Museum, an institution dedicated not to the celebration of war but to its comprehension.

Chalk another one up to this blog's favourite Edwardian Liberal.

I once wrote about Masterman's work as head of British propaganda at the start of the first world war in Liberator. And there's a post on his role in commissioning war artists on Tall Tales from the Trees, a blog I used to enjoy.

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