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Title: Picturing the war : Malta seen through the eyes of official British war artists, 1939-1945
Authors: Miggiani, Caroline
Keywords: World War, 1939-1945 -- Malta
War in art
Artists -- Great Britain
Issue Date: 2014
Abstract: This essay will focus on the artistic production of officially sanctioned British war artists who were actively involved in depicting Malta and events in the Mediterranean theatre of war during the crucial years of 1939 to 1945. It will also examine the role played by the British artist-soldier painting for his own recreation whilst off-duty. These artist-soldiers were responsible for creating ‘unofficial’ war art. The first chapter will discuss the wider context of war art and will examine the role of the WAAC, the War Artists Advisory Committee, set up in 1939 by Sir Kenneth Clark within the Ministry of Information, with the scope of providing a documentary and artistic history of the United Kingdom. The WAAC commissioned several artists to record war-time events taking place during the Second World War, including Malta. Biographies of the eleven Official War artists who pictured Malta will be presented in the appendix at the end of the paper as well as those of soldier-artists and servicemen stationed in Malta. This solution is deemed to be preferable in view of the fact that the dissertation is not primarily intended as a survey of the diverse artists commissioned by the WAAC, or those British artist-soldiers stationed on the ground, but rather as a general commentary of the visual culture of a Malta at war as seen through the eyes of British artists. A cursory look at local artistic production as well as Italian and German war art with a Malta theme will be undertaken throughout the paper in order to situate these British works within a Mediterranean context. Chapter two will examine the role of the war artist in a Malta context and questions whether the artistic output of the officially appointed war artists promoted any dialogue between Great Britain and its colony. The rest of the dissertation will follow a thematic approach. Chapter three will introduce the subject of the war at sea and the visual depiction of the Mediterranean convoy will be considered. The Grand Harbour, the most heavily bombed location in Malta during World War II, will be the subject of chapter four, with the arrival of the Ohio in August 1942 as a defining moment in Maltese cultural memory. This chapter also features the surrender of the Italian fleet in 1943 and its brief stay in Maltese waters. Chapter five will focus on air raids, underground shelters and damage caused by enemy bombardment. This shifts the emphasis of the war from the sea to the land. Aviation, ground manoeuvres and Malta’s homeland defence will be the topic of chapter six. Off-duty moments enjoyed by soldiers and civilian life is chapter seven’s primary focus. Portraiture, and the recognizable face it gives to the armed forces, concludes the thematic approach to the paper in chapter eight. The paper will not discuss the role of cartoons as a visual means of representing the war. War-time cartoons have already been the subject of two previous dissertations, and have been extensively studied in local publications. The concluding chapter makes some broad observations on the paintings featured in the paper and highlights certain omissions in subject matter portrayed by the Britsh artist’s brush. It again questions a possible dialogue between the officially appointed war artist and their Maltese counterparts and inquires about the value of exploring these wartime works. Maltese nationals undoubtedly live in a post-colonial era but find themselves now looking back at the war as citizens of a sovereign state having fought it as a British colony.
Description: B.A.(HONS)HIST.OF ART
Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacArtHa - 2014

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