Artists’ view of World War II

THE Australian War Memorial has this morning announced a new travelling exhibition, “Reality in flames: modern Australian art and the Second World War”, featuring works from renowned artists such as Stella Bowen, Russell Drysdale, Sidney Nolan and Albert Tucker.

Frank Hinder (1906–1992) Bomber crash, 1949,egg tempera, oil glazes on gesso on hardboard

Frank Hinder (1906–1992) Bomber crash, 1949,egg tempera, oil glazes on gesso on hardboard

The director of the memorial, Brendan Nelson, said “Reality in flames” was  an exploration of how Australian modern artists interpreted World War II. “This was an incredibly important period in Australia’s history; it was a time of anxiety and great change,” he said.

This is seen by the memorial as  the first exhibition dedicated exclusively to exploring how Australian modernist artists responded creatively to the Second World War. The exhibition consists drawn from the Australian War Memorial’s collection.

The exhibition features works developed through the official war art scheme alongside pieces by artists who struggled to balance the creation of their art with their war-related labour or military service.

Several works were created by refugees, prisoners of war and civilians in internee or concentration camps. These artists were compelled to explore the events they saw around them, focusing on new foreign and cultural encounters; the introduction of advanced technology to warfare; changing gender roles; the home front, leisure and recreation; and, crucially, the tremendous hardship, destruction and loss wrought by the conflict.

“’Reality in flames’ reveals how Australia’s artistic and literary culture was transformed by the war. Artists were inspired to create modern and innovative visual forms to interpret the experience of combat, the powerfully destructive machinery of war, and the vast social upheaval produced by global conflict,” Dr Nelson said.

The exhibition of 90 works of art will draw entirely from the memorial’s extensive collection of over 30,000 works of art, and will include 53 paintings, 32 works on paper and 5 sculptures.

“Reality in flames,” at the S.H. Ervin Gallery, Observatory Hill, Sydney,  March 7-April 13. For all tour dates visit exhibition touring dates and venues, please visit



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