Friday 20 March 2020

A world-leading 20th century collection

Mounds. A work of art by Paul Seawright in response to the war in Afghanistan. A series of earth mounds in a vast open landscape.
Mounds. Paul Seawright's response to the War in Afghanistan. © Paul Seawright (Art.IWM ART 16793)

A world-leading 20th century collection

The IWM collection features almost 20,000 works of art, documenting conflict since 1914 and representing a wide range of mediums, from photography to sculpture. Included in the collection are works created by artists under the British government war art schemes of the First and Second World Wars, including works by the likes of Sir William Orpen and John Singer Sargent. 

Throughout its history, IWM has also commissioned artwork. During the First World War, the Women’s Work Sub-Committee commissioned ten female artists to document women's roles during the conflict. IWM continues to commission new works from artists such as Steve McQueen and Paul Seawright, reflecting on conflicts including Northern Ireland, Bosnia, and Afghanistan.

Discover the collection

  • Explore the full collection of IWM"s digitised artworks

  • A view of a large, sunlit crater blasted into white chalky soil. The remains of German barbed-wire defences in the distance are a dark rust-coloured pink. A German and a British steel helmet and the remains of a uniform lie on the edge of the crater in the foreground. The sky is covered in dense white cloud with blue patches visible at the top of the composition.

    View the works of Sir William Orpen, who was an official war artist during the First World War and also produced commissions for IWM.

  • See how artists responded to the Blitz in 1940-1941

First World War

a Greek flour mill stands on a cliff in the right foreground overlooking a large
© IWM (Art.IWM ART 2451)
This Able Seaman Produced Incredible Drawings Of The Gallipoli Campaign
On 18 March 1915, a powerful naval force of British and French ships failed spectacularly in an attempt to force its way through the Dardanelles and threaten the Turkish capital, Constantinople (Istanbul). A decision was therefore taken to supress the Dardanelles defences by landing soldiers on the Gallipoli peninsula before making another attempt.
Women's Canteen at Phoenix Works, Bradford 1918, by Flora Lion
IWM ART 4434
Women In Wartime
6 Stunning First World War Artworks By Women War Artists
The first British official war artists’ scheme was set up by the government in 1916. Although several female artists were approached either by the British War Memorials Committee or the Ministry of Information, none of them completed commissions for the official schemes.

Explore the interactive Hall of Remembrance

This 3D experience allows you to explore the Hall of Remembrance, a memorial gallery designed by the British architect Charles Holden. It was intended as a memorial to the Britons who gave their lives during the war and would display a set of remarkable paintings commissioned by the British Government toward the end of the war. But the project ran out of time and money and the Imperial War Museum became the custodian of the paintings and sculpture that had been produced.

Explore the Hall of Remembrance

A screenshot from the IWM's interactive hall of remembrance, which was planned for after the First World War but never happened

Second World War

Randolph Schwabe's painting of The Women’s Land Army and German Prisoners. Women working in hay fields.
Randolph Schwabe, The Women’s Land Army and German Prisoners, 1918 © IWM (Art.IWM ART 1179)
Second World War
Art in Exile
See 10 of the works selected by IWM for evacuation to safety before the start of the Second World War.     
The Wehrmacht, May 1945, by Edward Ardizzone.
Second World War
How War Artist Edward Ardizzone Showed The Human Side Of War
Edward Ardizzone (1900 - 1979) is one of the most enduringly popular of the artists commissioned by the War Artists Advisory Committee (WAAC) in the Second World War, as well as being one of the longest serving. 

This War Artist Captured D-Day in Stunning Watercolours


This War Artist Captured D-Day in Stunning Watercolours

Anthony Gross was among the first artists to be commissioned as a British official war artist in the Second World War. He was also one of the longest serving. In 1944, Gross returned to Britain in time to witness the build-up to the momentous D-Day landings. 
Looking down the quayside following the D-Day landings, with military personnel and vehicles, including a bicycle. French Tricolores and Union Jacks are hanging from buildings. A rifle and grenades lie in the gutter.

Conflict Post-1945

Conrad Shawcross RA
Art And Design
Parallel Lives
IWM worked with six Royal Academicians to reveal how the IWM collections influence and impact their work. Looking at objects as diverse as aircraft to sound trumpets, and themes such as imprisonment, surveillance, terrorism and the nuclear threat of the 1960s, the resultant films demonstrate the breadth and vitality of the collection and the wide-ranging fascination it holds for artists working today.
Contemporary conflict
kennardphillipps on Art and Activism
Peter Kennard and Cat Phillipps began working together under the name kennardphillipps in 2002, collaborating to produce art that responded to the build up to and aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

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Join IWM Today - become a member

Help us continue to tell stories that deserve to be heard by supporting us as a member and uncover a host of benefits including free standard admission to Churchill War Rooms, HMS Belfast and IWM Duxford.
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