Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish Civil WarConscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish Civil War

Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War (1936−39) was one of the most significant conflicts of the Twentieth Century. It went beyond being an internal conflict between the left-wing democratically-elected Spanish Republicans and General Franco's Nationalists on the right to being a battle-ground for ideas in the years before the Second World War.

Described by Stephen Spender as 'the poets’ war', the Spanish Civil War inspired memorable accounts by writers such as W.H. Auden, Laurie Lee, and George Orwell but until now the extraordinary response of British artists has been largely untold. This is the first exhibition to explore how a generation of British artists in the 1930s were drawn to engage in the complex political issues of the conflict, some by travelling to Spain to join the fight against Fascism, others by designing posters for relief campaigns, or creating powerful and moving visual commentaries on the humanitarian situation created by the war. It united artists working in a variety of artistic styles from realism to abstraction, from the Bloomsbury Group to the Surrealists, and this exhibition accordingly presents artworks in all media: painting, design, printmaking, photography, textiles and sculpture. It also considers the impact of iconic works by international artists on British art, such as Pablo Picasso’s celebrated anti-war painting ‘Guernica’ which was exhibited in Britain in 1938-9

This exhibition marks the 75th anniversary of the end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939 and features loans from a range of public museums and private collections in Britain and abroad, including works that have not been seen in public for many years. We are hugely grateful to all the lenders, sponsors and supporters of this exhibition.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a programme of talks, events, performances, poetry recitals and creative workshops and will tour to the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle-upon-Tyne from March to June 2015. A catalogue written by the exhibition’s curator Simon Martin, with a foreword by Professor Paul Preston, is available from the Pallant Bookshop.