MAKING MIGHTY SHIPS

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MAKING MIGHTY SHIPS

 

1. Muirhead Bone, On the Stocks, 1917

The war was fought at sea as well as on land, and the magnificent industrial ship-building effort required to equip the navy was portrayed by the Scottish artist Muirhead Bone (1876–1953) in his six lithographs for the Efforts and Ideals series, entitled 'Making Ships'. On the Stocks is reminiscent of the imaginary prison drawings (Carceri d'invenzione) of the eighteenth-century Italian artist Piranesi, inspiring a mixture of awe and wonder at the vast scale and complexity of the task in hand. In 1916 Bone was appointed the first official war artist, serving on the Western Front and with the navy. He was to become a war artist again in 1940, during the Second World War.

2. Edward Wadsworth, Liverpool Shipping, 1918

Closely related to the large oil painting Dazzle-Ships in Dry Dock at Liverpool (1919), in the National Gallery of Canada, this print was adapted as a poster for the Imperial War Museum in 1936. It shows the 'dazzle' camouflage that was developed in 1917 to foil enemy submarine attacks on shipping, by breaking up the apparent bulk of the ship into abstract blocks of strong colour. Edward Wadsworth (1889–1949) served as a Dock Officer at Liverpool, where he supervised the painting of these ships. He produced a series of eight striking prints on the subject, based on photographs he took there. This woodcut boldly conveys the dynamism of the machine age, reflecting Wadsworth's enthusiasm for Vorticist theories of art early in his career.

3. Charles Pears, Maintaining Forces Overseas: Transport Loading at Night, 1917

Once built, the great ships had to be provisioned – another Herculean task. Serving as an officer in the Royal Marines, the artist Charles Pears (1873–1958) designed six prints on the theme 'Transport by Sea' for the Efforts and Ideals series. This atmospheric lithograph emphasizes how work went on day and night, with the powerful beams of searchlights illuminating both the sky and the dock, where human activity is dwarfed by the bulk of the ship. Pears specialized in marine painting, later becoming first President of the Society of Marine Artists (now the Royal Society). Like Muirhead Bone, Pears worked as an official war artist during both World Wars.

 

 

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