Blitzed City with Self-Portrait

Catalogue number
  • Art.IWM ART 16739
Art and Popular Design
Production date
Place made
Great Britain
Subject period
  • Support: board
  • medium: oil
  • Support: Height 305 mm, Width 400 mm
  • Frame: Depth 65 mm, Height 505 mm, Width 603 mm
Alternative names
  • object category: painting
Purchased with the assistance of The Art Fund, 2001

© Royal College of Art (Art.IWM ART 16739)

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Object description

image: A slender, dark-haired youth with a melancholic gaze leans against a brick pillar. He wears an open-necked shirt and a short jacket with one button fastened. His trouser belt is shown slightly unfastened. Behind him is a cityscape of bombed houses, with two bridges crossing a wide river. In the middleground is a wrecked lorry abandoned in the road.


Though neither a self-portrait nor a topographical vista of London during the Blitz, this painting is a revealing expression of Minton's state of mind when he knew his conscription was imminent (he had lost his claim to be a conscientious objector and joined the Pioneer Corps in December 1941). London had been transformed by preparations for war and then by the German bombing campaign which devastated those areas along the Thames that Minton liked to frequent - Wapping, Limehouse and Poplar. War had created a type of landscape that had previously existed only in his imagination. Typical of this period are the pen and ink drawings of buildings seen from a viewpoint, looking down into abandoned rooms and streets peopled by listless waifs and lovers. This rare oil is possibly his most complete expression of guilt, alienation and sexual melancholy. John Minton had began to establish his reputation as an artist in 1941. His work was included in shows at the Redfern Gallery and the Leicester Galleries, and Michael Ayrton invited him to collaborate on designing the sets and costumes for John Gielgud's production of 'Macbeth'. In the autumn he painted some nocturnal scenes with a three-quarter-length figure against a ruined landscape. One of these, 'Blitzed City with Self-portrait', he gave to the Sadler's Wells dancer Pat Garnett.


John Minton Oct. 1941, for Pat

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All Rights Reserved except for Fair Dealing exceptions otherwise permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, as amended and revised.