'Achtung, Spitfeuer!'

September 15 2011

Image of 'Achtung, Spitfeuer!'

Picture: Imperial War Museum

Did you know that today is 'Battle of Britain Day'? It marks the end of Hitler's attempt to destroy the Royal Air Force in 1940, as a precursor to invasion.

Above is Paul Nash's Battle of Britain, one of the more important works of art from the Second World War. The picture is one of favourite war pictures, and fits perfectly the description given by Kenneth Clarke, when describing the purpose of keeping an artistic record between 1939-45:

What did it look like? they will ask in 1981, and no amount of description or documentation will answer them. Nor will big, formal compositions like the battle pictures which hang in palaces; and even photographs, which tell us so much, will leave out the colour and peculiar feeling of events in these extraordinary years. Only the artist with his heightened powers of perception can recognise which elements in a scene can be pickled for posterity in the magical essence of style.

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