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Exhibition in Durham about Britain at the start of the Second World War

The Recording Britain collection, owned by the Victoria and Albert Museum, recently started its national tour with an exhibition in Durham. The collection consist of drawings and watercolours that were commisioned to record the landscape of Britain at the outbreak of the Second World War.

Recording Britain

Byron Dawson - Downham Village
Byron Dawson | Victorian and Albert Museum

The collection was initiated by Sir Kenneth Clark and funded by the Pilgrim Trust. The collection of about 1,500 works is the result of a unique project to gather images of vulnerable landscapes, buildings and lifestyles at a period of immense change. The collection is compiled because the country faced the potentially devastating effects of the war and of progress and development. Eventually, more than ninety artists – men and woman, young and old, renowned professionals and talented amateurs – contributed to the collection between 1939 and 1943.

Recording Britain features quiet villages, bustling market towns, ancient parish churches, fairgrounds, follies, country inns and vanishing rural industries, which all seem to embody the ideals Britain was fighting for at the impending war. Some pictures show places at immediate risk, such as historic buildings due for demolition, areas of countryside which were threatened by housing and a new road, and an entire Derbyshire village which was about to be submerged by a new reservoir.

DLI Museum and Durham Art Gallery

Among the artists who contributed were some of the country's finest watercolour painters including John Piper, Charles Knight, Michael Rothenstein, Kenneth Rowntree, Stanley Badmin, Barbara Jones and Phyllis Dimond. Curated by the V&A, this touring exhibition, at the DLI Museum and Durham Art Gallery from Friday, 29 March to Sunday, 30 June, looks at the aims and achievements of Recording Britain. Selected works from the collection will be displayed alongside guide books of the period and photographs made for the National Monuments record in the 1940s.

Artdaily: Exhibition curated by the Victoria and Albert Museum, examines Britain on the brink of change