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Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish Civil War

[ Exhibition )

Screenprint by R. B. Kitaj showing a collage of images including fabric pattersn, the cover of a book called The March of a Naiton and photographs of soldiers in predominately orange and green tones.

R. B. Kitaj, What is a Comparison?, from ‘Mahler Becomes Politics, Beisbol’, 1964-67, 17 colour screenprint, photo-screenprint on paper, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Wilson Gift through The Art Fund, 2006) © R B Kitaj

How did British artists respond to the Spanish Civil War?

The Spanish Civil War (1936–39) was one of the most significant European conflicts of the 20th century, uniting a generation of young writers, poets and artists in political fervour.

Artistically, the conflict stretched far beyond an internal political clash between the Republicans and General Franco’s Nationalists.

In aesthetic terms, the artistic response crossed boundaries between Surrealists and abstract artists. For instance, for Barbara Hepworth and SW Hayter, and figurative artists such as Ursula McCannell and James Boswell. This exhibition focused on the influence of the Spanish Civil War on British visual artists such as Edward Burra, Wyndham Lewis, Henry Moore and John Armstrong, examined alongside international artists such as Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró.

The catalogue is available from Pallant Bookshop.

A film by Jon Adams.

What the press said

This exemplary show… meticulously researched and curated by Simon Martin on a slender budget, is exactly what a major museum such as Tate Britain ought to put on. It is rousing, revelatory and poignant: a fragment of British art and political life brought back from oblivion.

Laura Cummings, The Observer

This is a moving visual history of a time when young British artists stood shoulder to shoulder with Picasso in a struggle – as they rightly saw it – for the future of humanity.

Jonathan Jones, The Guardian

Together with its catalogue, this informative and well-researched exhibition of art, documentation and rare memorabilia makes a valuable contribution to knowledge about 1930s British politically aware art… It will hopefully galvanise a new generation to create politically committed art.

Christine Lindley, The Morning Star

The way in which Conscience and Conflict engages the audience with a complex subject is a model for other galleries to follow. Anybody with an interest in the connections between history, politics and art should go.

Martin Evans, History Today.

Want to know more?

If you’re conducting research into this artist or another aspect of Modern British art and would like to use our library and archive, please contact Sarah Norris, Collections Manager on

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