Transforming IWM London

Barnett Freedman

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Catalogue number
  • ART/WA2/03/040
Part of
Production date
1939-12-21
Creator
Category
war artists archive

Content description

Freedman's and Edward Bawden's appointments as War Office artists were agreed by the Committee on 20 December 1939. Freedman went to France in April 1940 and sent back several accounts of his dissatisfaction there - being treated like Press, having no rank, lacking transport and other facilities. In a detailed report dated 28 May 1940 (9-11), written after his evacuation with the British Expeditionary Force, he suggests improvements to the scheme, as well as referring to works made whilst with the Air Component South, at Thélus, near Arras (IWM:ART LD 261; IWM:ART 270; LD 271 etc). Colin Coote, of the War Office, was incensed by Freedman's presumption, writing "I see no alternative to dismissing so cantankerous a fellow" (28). After his return, Freedman requested permission to travel to France again, but this was denied. However, he was not removed from his War Office commission until February 1941. Before this he spent time at Sheerness and the Isle of Sheppey recording coastal defences, resulting in IWM:ART LD 422 and IWM:ART LD 838, detailed at (47). There is also mention of alterations to IWM:ART LD 439-441. Freedman submitted the first of his "albums" of portraits, of personnel of the 9.2 Big Gun (IWM:ART LD 703). The title of IWM:ART LD 838 is extensively discussed, Freedman, Dickey and Coote all suggesting different titles. [This may explain why the contemporary photograph has a different title from that now used by the IWM.] Freedman was in regular contact with Dickey, on subjects ranging from a request for an Anderson shelter to put in his basement to allow him to work at his London house, to his criticisms of photography and other reproduction of his paintings, including the Brownlee Christmas card (qv). Freedman always had strong views on any print or reproductions; see his comments on the National Gallery exhibition catalogues at (94-95). Another common theme of his letters is claims for recompense for kit lost in the evacuation from France in 1940, and queries about the provision for his family in the event of his death. In (37-38) Freedman outlines his desire to work on a submarine and record all aspects of the ship and its internal activities, which he would later do. After his dismissal by the War Office, he was appointed by the Ministry of Information to make a picture for the Admiralty. Meanwhile, he was also invited to design a poster to replace the external advertising at the National Gallery (see GP/46/24/12) although there is no evidence of the completion of this project; and posters for the Empire on the subject ‘500 Million People Stand Together', and for the Post Office. By July 1941 Freedman was on board HMS Repulse, and wrote happily of his experiences there (117ff). The products of this period were IWM:ART LD 2295; LD 1500; LD 2732 and LD 2373. The MoI wished to make a lithograph of IWM:ART 2295, '15 inch Gun Turret, HMS Repulse' (see also GP/46/50), and Freedman, an experienced printmaker, chose to work on this himself. It was also suggested that this image be used as a poster advertising the National Gallery exhibitions. Freedman was "borrowed" by the Ministry of Supply at the end of 1942 to make another of his albums of portraits, this time the personnel of an aircraft factory (LD 2810). Subsequently he was sent to HM Submarine Tribune, producing another album, LD 4036, and continuing his interest in submarines, which led to LD 4637 (174). In June 1944, Freedman was sent to Portsmouth, and from there to France after D-Day, recording events particularly at the War Room Headquarters (LD 4582-3; IWM:ART LD 4638). In one letter he describes making a drawing "on a panel ripped from this shelled house". However, in July he was taken ill and was sent to a hospital in Liverpool. After this, further commissions were mentioned, but declined, apart from one outstanding commission, ‘Beaches and Harbour'. When the committee saw the drawing for this, they decided to take it instead of the worked up picture, which caused disapproval from Armide Oppé. The remainder of the file comprises enquiries, including regarding photographs.

Physical description

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