Until 24 April

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Churchill War Rooms

Free event with general admission

Explore the Second World War’s impact on London life with a unique art exhibition housed in the secret command centre where Winston Churchill and his inner circle directed the Allied effort.

This carefully curated selection of artworks, on display for a limited time only, shines a new light on the experiences of ordinary people forced into new patterns of living by Nazi air raids.

At the heart of the exhibition are newly acquired drawings from one of the most significant British artists of the twentieth century, Henry Moore, as well as works from other British artists from IWM’s world-renowned collection: William Matvyn Wright; Eric Ravilious; Ernest Boye Uden; Mabel Hutchinson; Evelyn Gibbs; Evelyn Dunbar; and Leila Faithfull.

Through works inspired by the extraordinary measures Londoners took to continue their lives amidst wartime hardship and mortal danger, see their experience of war as artists captured it.


The Freedom Portrait

The Freedom Portrait by Frank Salisbury
Frank Salisbury. ‘The Freedom Portrait’. November 1944. Artwork: © Estate of Frank O Salisbury. All rights reserved, DACS 2022. Photo: © Private Company

The Freedom Portrait

From 23 February, a rarely seen portrait of Winston Churchill by the artist Frank Salisbury will join the Wartime London: Art of the Blitz exhibition. 

Loaned by a private American collector for a limited time, ‘The Freedom Portrait’ is the only painted portrait Churchill is recorded to have formally sat for during the Second World War.

Described by Churchill himself as bearing ‘a remarkable likeness’, this oil study will be displayed in the historic Map Room, where some of the most top secret strategic decisions were made throughout the course of the war.

Painted to mark Churchill’s acceptance of The Freedom of the City of London, Salisbury later incorrectly inscribed the date ‘Oct 24 1944’, when it had in fact been painted in November, perhaps resulting in its omission from historical art records.

The finished product shows the Wartime Prime Minister in good health but with a firm expression, a reflection perhaps of the escalations in both the European and Pacific theatres of war and the dangers being faced at home.


Eric Ravilious

Eric Ravilious, The Teleprinter Room Watercolour, 1941
Eric Ravilious, The Teleprinter Room Watercolour, 1941. © IWM_ART_LD_001192_A

Eric Ravilious

By 1941, Eric Ravilious was already a widely travelled war artist. He was temporarily released from this work to return to London to draw the new control centre of the Ministry of Home Security. His series of watercolours show clear parallels with the look and feel of the Cabinet War Rooms.

Henry Moore

Henry Moore Drawing. A group of sleeping figures in the dark, pale heads and arms are visible over a sea of blankets.
Henry Moore, Sleeping Figures. Reproduced by permission of The Henry Moore Foundation.

Henry Moore

Moore frequently visited London Underground stations during the Second World War, observing people sheltering from the heavy bombardment above ground. The pieces selected from his ‘Shelter’ series for this display are some of the most moving and enduring depictions of life during the Blitz. The drawings were his own personal response to the scenes he witnessed.

Leila Faithfull

Leila Faithfull

Take a closer look at war artist Leila Faithfull's VE Day celebrations triptych from 1945 with Head of Research Suzanne Bardgett. 

Mabel Hutchinson

Mabel Hutchinson

Discover 'A Bermondsey Rest Centre' by Mabel Hutchinson from 1941.

From the shop

By Suzanne Bardgett
Wartime London In Paintings
By Jonathan Asbury
Secrets Of Churchills War Rooms
St Pauls During The Blitz Print


View of the Map Room at Churchill War Rooms
Permanent Display

Cabinet War Rooms: Map Room

Churchill War Rooms

Elephant and Castle London Underground Station Shelter: People sleeping on the crowded platform of Elephant and Castle tube station while taking shelter from German air raids during the London Blitz.
The Blitz

London In The Second World War

The Blitz on London from September 1940 to May 1941 and the V1 flying bomb and V2 rocket attacks in 1944 caused a massive amount of damage. It is estimated that more than 12,000 metric tons of bombs were dropped on London and nearly 30,000 civilians were killed by enemy action.
© IWM (ART LD 415) Kenneth Rowntree, Foreign Service-men in Hyde Park, Early Summer, 1940, 1940.
Kenneth Rowntree, Foreign Service-men in Hyde Park, Early Summer, 1940, 1940. © IWM (ART LD 415)
Second World War

10 Paintings of Wartime London

London was transformed by the Second World War. Air raids tore up the very fabric of the city night after night, and by day its streets were filled with soldiers, both British and from overseas. Artists living and working in London captured this ever-changing landscape in beautiful paintings, 10 of which are featured here.