• Art
  • Age 11 to 14 (KS3)


  • GCSE - Warfare and British society 1250-Present. 
  • KS3/4 - The history of art, craft, design and architecture, including periods, styles and major movements from ancient times up to the present day.
  • To understand the context of war art and why it is made.   

[Onscreen text] kennardphillipps 

[Onscreen text] Can you tell me a little about your artistic practice? 

[Peter Kennard] We started working together before the invasion of Iraq and that's why we, we got together, because we'd been on the big demonstration against the war and then we wanted to express what we were feeling after the thing happened, so we started working, making work at that point.  

[Cat Picton-Phillipps] Yes it was like the frustration of being, of a citizen being disempowered by government policy. You know, even after walking with a million people and it having no influence whatever on government policy. That massive frustration and anger, really. So, a lot of our work, I mean that's a starting point for, I suppose that is the inspiration for, nearly everything that we make. It's the starting point of anger and frustration at policy that’s beyond our control as citizens. So, I identify myself very much as a citizen, you know, as an artist it's like an extension of just being an everyday citizen.  

[Peter Kennard] And also, I started getting into art at the time of the Vietnam War and through the Anti-Vietnam [war] demonstration and at that time there was a whole movement built up against the Vietnam war, so it wasn't just a demo and then nothing. Whereas with Iraq there was that feeling that you go on this demo, there were other demos but there wasn't really a big movement building up organizations. So, for us to make work was a way for us to continue expressing what we were feeling.  

Photo Op

kennardphillipps are Peter Kennard and Cat Picton-Phillipps who have worked together since 2002, initially to make art in response to the invasion of Iraq. Their work is shown in a range of contexts, on line, in galleries and on protest marches. They describe their work as an integral part of political activism, a direct means of communication: 'the visual arm of protest'. Photo Op, depicting Tony Blair taking a ‘selfie’ in front of a huge explosion, has become an iconic image. It was produced in response to the anger they felt at the Government’s decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003, in the face of widespread public protest. They describe their need to create something that reflected and validated this public opposition, sentiments they felt were not reflected in the mainstream media at the time.

Collection IWM. © kennardphillipps


[Onscreen text] Paul Seawright 

[Onscreen text] Much of your work is not explicit in its context or narrative, the viewer has to piece it together, can you talk about this?  

[Paul Seawright] Sometimes my work will be criticized for not being direct enough, for not being explicit, for it being to be ambiguous, that the narrative is obscured or difficult and there's a fine balance there. I mean if it is too explicit then it becomes journalistic. I guess, if it's too ambiguous it becomes meaningless, so the Holy Grail is to make work that visually engages people, that draws them in and then that gives itself up, gives its meaning up slowly. And I think good art does that but yet still gives it meaning up. So, you have to still be able to access what you're talking about, and I think the work does that, I think once you know its context, you know where the photographs are made, then each work is very resonant with all kinds of ideas.  

And an exciting thing about art is, and I think the way people engage with art, is that the construction of meaning is not done by me it's done by the person looking at the artwork and you must leave space for that to happen. If you don't then you really are back to an editorial picture on a magazine that has to function in a different way. It has to be quick, and it has to give up its meaning quickly because people will look at it for no more than 15 seconds and turn the page. So, there has to be a difference between that and what you do as a photographic artist so finding that line is I guess the challenge.  

Camp Boundary

In 2002, IWM commissioned Paul Seawright to respond to the War in Afghanistan, which had started the previous October. He was interested in how an artist might engage with conflict in a way that was different to the dramatic spectacles of photojournalism. The resulting photographs of minefields show a seemingly empty landscape, which in reality is both lethal and inaccessible. He says that he had ‘always been fascinated by the invisible, the unseen, the subject matter that doesn't easily present itself to the camera’. Seawright’s work highlights the changing nature of contemporary warfare with its increasing emphasis on remote technology and hidden enemies.

Collection IWM. © Paul Seawright

[Onscreen text] Annabel Dover 

[Onscreen text] Do you think of this work as war art? 

[Annabel Dover] So, I guess for me the idea of war artists are men and are quite heroic and really in the action and none of those things are true of me. I might be heroic in a small way but not in that kind of gung-ho physical way. But I think a lot of artists in the past have made amazing work – sometimes the most interesting work when they do it in relation to war. 

So, I love Henry Moore's drawings and ink and wax drawings of the Underground – people in the Underground, for example, and they touch me much more than a lot of his other work and the same for Nash and other people, I guess. I mean someone like Don McCullen, his whole life he's in trauma because of all the things that he's seen, so it's very different from me. I guess I like the idea of emotions and the impacts different things have on people's lives and they can come in a lot of different ways.  

Cyanotype [RAF Sock]

Annabel Dover explores the relationship between objects and memory and the social relationships that these objects represent. She highlights the power attributed to objects as markers of memory. These prints were produced from Second World War family keepsakes. The prints' distinctive colour comes from the method used in their production, in which an object is placed on treated paper and exposed to the sun, leaving a shadow. The items depicted belie the drama that they represent: the hat was worn by Dover’s grandmother when she received a telegram stating her husband was missing in action. The sock was worn by her stepfather when he was shot down and injured over Germany whilst serving with the RAF. His leg was amputated, but the nurses that cared for him washed and mended the sock. It became, for him, symbolic of their compassion.

Collection IWM.  © Annabel Dover


Adventures in History: Painting Life graphic
Home Learning

Painting Life

Join IWM experts Becky and Paris as they share real life stories of artists, and the invaluable role they played during the Second World War.

'Over The Top'. 1st Artists' Rifles at Marcoing, 30th December 1917 by John Nash
© IWM (Art.IWM ART 1656)
Classroom Resource

British Art of the First World War

Use these sources to discover more about art during the First World War.

For ideas to help you use these sources, take a look at our Suggested Activities.


IWM London Exterior shot
IWM London

School visits to IWM London

Discover the stories of lives shaped by war and conflict from 1914 until the present day. Step into the iconic atrium, explore the brand new Second World War Galleries and experience our new learning facilities.

IWM North landscape view
IWM North

School visits to IWM North

Purpose-built to tell the powerful stories of over a century of war, IWM North makes full use of its extraordinary exhibition space to deliver an award-winning immersive experience.

IWM Duxford Showcase
IWM Duxford

School visits to IWM Duxford

Walk through the same hangars and buildings as those who served at RAF Duxford. See aircraft take to the skies from the airfield that Spitfires first flew. And get up close to over a century of aviation with hundreds of aircraft and objects on display.