Shop for Machining 15-inch Shells: Singer Manufacturing Company, Clydebank, Glasgow, 1918

Catalogue number
  • Art.IWM ART 2271
Department
Art and Popular Design
Production date
1918
Place made
Great Britain
Subject period
Materials
  • Support: canvas
  • medium: oil
Dimensions
  • Support: Height 1828 mm, Width 2133 mm
  • Frame: Depth 70 mm, Height 2020 mm, Width 2340 mm
Alternative names
  • object category: painting
Creator
Category
art

© IWM (Art.IWM ART 2271)

Purchase & License
Object description

image: The interior view of a munitions factory showing the production of 15 inch shells by women factory workers. There are winches hanging from the ceiling and large steel shell cases sitting on wooden trolleys in the centre of the image. There are several women standing amongst the machinery, one to the left, and another on the right.

Label

This is one of four commissioned paintings, depicting munitions production at a crucial stage in the First World War when the tactical use of heavy artillery had become central to the success of the Allied forces. The Singer factory opened in 1867 and was the first overseas factory of the immensely successful American sewing machine company. During the First World War, the factory switched production to armaments. The painting shows both the size of the building and the weight of the shells. The success of Scottish heavy industry was built on low investment and cheap labour and Airy gives some indications of this, too - the handling equipment is basic and the production lines disorganized. Indeed, workers at the Singer factory had held a major strike in 1911, their grievances encapsulated in the slogan ‘An injury to one is an injury to all’. Not only does the painting measure how far the war economy had developed – a household name in domestic consumerism was now producing armaments – but it also conveys how life had changed, and how women's work and roles had altered. From using domestic machines in the home, women were now employed in factories producing armaments; factories that formerly provided them with modern utilities.

Label

Anna Airy was commissioned to produce four paintings depicting munitions production at a crucial stage in the First World War when the tactical use of heavy artillery had become central to the success of the Allied forces. The success of Scottish heavy industry was built on low investment and cheap labour and Anna Airy gives some indications of this - the handling equipment is basic and the production lines disorganized. Indeed, workers at the Singer factory had held a major strike in 1911, their grievances encapsulated in the slogan: ‘An injury to one is an injury to all’. The painting measure how far the war economy had developed and society changed: a household name in domestic consumerism was now producing armaments, and women, who might previously have been employed in domestic settings, are now employed on their factory floor.

History note

Ministry of Information commission, 1918. Commission administration transferred to Imperial War Museum, 1919.

Inscription

signed & date

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