This exceptional collection is one of the most important representations of twentieth century British art in the world. It includes many great works of art from the British government war art schemes of the First and Second World Wars, which employed the greatest artists of their day, including leaders of the avant garde. These included Paul Nash, C R W Nevinson, John Singer Sargent and Sir William Orpen.
Today IWM continues to commission artists such as Steve McQueen, Roddy Buchanan and Susan Philipsz, and the collection reflects recent and contemporary conflicts including Northern Ireland, the Falklands, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Important works from outside official schemes can also be found in the collection, by artists ranging from Edward Burra to Willie Doherty. The collection of almost 20,000 items includes paintings, prints and drawings, sculpture, and works in media such as photography, sound, and film. IWM also holds the unique War Artists Archive, which reveals the day-to-day running of the war art schemes and gives fascinating glimpses of the artists' experiences.
War Artists Archive
The Archive covers the work of IWM and government committees during both world wars, as well as recent streams of commissioning. It comprises well over 1,000 files documenting the official commissioning and purchase of war art relating to these conflicts, including correspondence with individual artists as well as administrative files covering matters such as policy, committee meetings and exhibitions.
Popular Design and Illustration
An international collection of over 20,000 posters, along with popular prints, postcards, proclamations and other publicity materials, gives an insight into the images of war that would have been seen in the streets, workplaces, post offices and canteens of Britain, Germany and other nations during the First and Second World Wars. They are very revealing about national identity, the daily experience of war and how different nations persuaded their people to keep fighting. Eye-catching posters and postcards in the collection from more recent times are largely produced by protest movements such as CND and Stop the War, or as charity advertising.