Architecture of War: a letter from the artist

‘Oh I Was Very Lucky, London 1944’ by Priscilla Thornycroft.

Earlier this year during the planning of our current exhibition Architecture of War  and while IWM London was still closed  curator Claire Brenard met with IWM’s Youth Panel as part of our Transforming IWM London project  to talk about how we plan our exhibitions and galleries. The Youth Panel showed interest in one of the paintings featured in the Architecture of War – ‘Oh I Was Very Lucky, London 1944’ by Priscilla Thornycroft.

Priscilla Thornycroft was an active member of the Artists’ International Association (AIA) and produced anti-fascist posters for Spanish Civil War campaigns. Without an official commission or even a drawing permit, she made drawings around Camden Town where she lived during the Second World War.

Thornycroft’s work provides a darkly humorous counterpoint to the official war art of the time. She painted ‘Oh I Was Very Lucky, London 1944’ decades later as part of a series of work based on sketches and memories from the war.

The Youth Panel discussing Priscilla Thornycroft’s painting currently featured in the exhibition Architecture of War.

In June Priscilla Thornycroft wrote to Claire and the Youth Panel and gave more background on the painting currently on display in Architecture of War:

 ‘…It has occurred to me that they [Youth Panel] would like to know a little bit more about my painting…

…All drawing and paintings I did of the Second World War are of people and things I saw.

The woman sitting on a chair in the rubble was near the southern end of the footbridge from Charing Cross Underground station (the Tube being closed under the Thames during air raids). I had just run across the river and saw her sitting in the road drinking tea. When I stopped for a second to ask if I could do anything, all she said was: “Oh I was very lucky.” An old lady from over the road, with a teapot, explained: “She was in the basement when the bomb fell”. So I ran on to catch the evening train out of Waterloo station, and as I ran I could still hear the woman repeating again and again “Oh I was very lucky”…’

You can join curator Claire Brenard along with artist Deanna Petherbridge, whose works also feature in Architecture of War, in a Google Art Talk on Tuesday 19 November. Find out more.

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