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Watercolour - The Mill at Parham

The Mill at Parham

  • Object:

    Watercolour

  • Place of origin:

    Parham (painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1940 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Airy, Jack L. (painter (artist))

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour painting on paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Pilgrim Trust

  • Museum number:

    E.2108-1949

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

Jack L. Airy seems to have been a talented amateur, for his career is not recorded. He contributed eight watercolours of sites in Suffolk to the Recording Britain scheme; the stiff, somewhat naive drawing style typical of his work is very much in evidence here.

Parham, a sleepy Suffolk village, earned a brief moment of fame during the Second World War when it became the site of an American Air Force base.

Physical description

A watercolour drawing of a small windmill surrounded by outbuildings placed at roughly equal intervals. The drawing is stiff and rather naive.

Place of Origin

Parham (painted)

Date

ca. 1940 (painted)

Artist/maker

Airy, Jack L. (painter (artist))

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour painting on paper

Marks and inscriptions

'J L Airy'
'J. L. AIRY'

Dimensions

Height: 11.875 in, Width: 11 in

Object history note

Jack L. Airy seems to have been a talented amateur, for his career is not recorded; this is one of eight watercolours of sites in Suffolk that he contributed to Recording Britain.
This work is from the 'Recording Britain' collection of topographical watercolours and drawings made in the early 1940s during the Second World War. In 1940 the Committee for the Employment of Artists in Wartime, part of the Ministry of Labour and National Service, launched a scheme to employ artists to record the home front in Britain, funded by a grant from the Pilgrim Trust. It ran until 1943 and some of the country's finest watercolour painters, such as John Piper, Sir William Russell Flint and Rowland Hilder, were commissioned to make paintings and drawings of buildings, scenes, and places which captured a sense of national identity. Their subjects were typically English: market towns and villages, churches and country estates, rural landscapes and industries, rivers and wild places, monuments and ruins. Northern Ireland was not covered, only four Welsh counties were included, and a separate scheme ran in Scotland.

The scheme was known as 'Recording the changing face of Britain' and was established by Sir Kenneth Clark, then the director of the National Gallery. It ran alongside the official War Artists' Scheme, which he also initiated. Clark was inspired by several motives: at the outbreak of war in 1939, there was a concern to document the British landscape in the face of the imminent threat of bomb damage, invasion, and loss caused by the operations of war. This was allied to an anxiety about changes to the landscape already underway, such as the rapid growth of cities, road building and housing developments, the decline of rural ways of life and industries, and new agricultural practices, which together contributed to the idea of a 'vanishing Britain'. Clark also wanted to help artists, and the traditional forms of British art such as watercolour painting, to survive during the uncertain conditions of wartime. He in turn was inspired by America's Federal Arts Project which was designed to give artists employment during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Over 1500 works were eventually produced by 97 artists, of whom 63 were specially commissioned. At the time the collection had a propaganda role, intended to boost national morale by celebrating Britain's landscapes and heritage. Three exhibitions were held during the war at the National Gallery, and pictures from the collection were sent on touring exhibitions and to galleries all around the country. After the war, the whole collection was given to the V&A by the Pilgrim Trust in 1949, and it was documented in a four volume catalogue published between 1946 and 1949. For many years the majority of the collection was on loan to councils and record offices in each county, until recalled by the V&A around 1990. The pictures now form a memorial to the war effort, and a unique record of their time.

Historical context note

Parham was the site of an American air force base during World War II.

Descriptive line

Watercolour, 'The Mill at Parham', by Jack L. Airy (Recording Britain, Suffolk).

Materials

Watercolour; Paper

Techniques

Watercolour drawing; Painting

Subjects depicted

Parham; Suffolk; Windmills; Topographical views

Categories

Recording Britain Collection

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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