Incendiaries in the Suburbs, Henry Carr, 1941


Henry Carr, Incendiaries in a Suburb, 1941, IWM

A painting from the Imperial War Museum in London. Many of the pictures they hold seem on the fringes of what tends to get shown in galleries: like an overlooked subculture – or maybe it’s just that these images are being viewed in one place. Nevertheless, there’s something quite interesting about the fact that these paintings often deal with people dealing with everyday tasks, albeit within the context of a shattering period of history. There are women in factories, queuing for rations, men and women from every class engaged in the processes of war and aftermath. It’s not just the images of generals or battle which some perceive about the museum.

Evelyn Dunbar, The Queue at the Fish Shop, 1944, detail, IWM

Evelyn Dunbar, The Queue at the Fish Shop, 1944, detail, IWM

Often these images have been labelled as ‘recordings’ and not put on an ‘art’ pedestal. Perhaps the gatekeepers of culture of much of the 20th century saw little profound in images of people going about the detail of everyday life, of what would then be termed the lives of ‘ordinary’ people. (Yet even in the 1970s, an oft-repeated TV documentary series called ‘The Family’ filmed an ‘ordinary’ family with a real sense that looking at this ‘ordinariness’ was something unusual to put before a viewing public. Not to say directors like Ken Loach, kitchen sink dramas and Coronation Street didn’t exist to challenge this of course.)

That, however, is a WhistlesintheWind ramble. I just wanted to post a nice postcard from my desk and then do some work. I love the Henry Carr image – the city sky is beautiful, but with a bitter taste because it’s the work of the worst aspects of humankind and not sun or moon or weather. You can stare into the painting and see so much in a moment captured, not to mention the red post box exaggerating the routine and calm of order shattered.


3 thoughts on “Incendiaries in the Suburbs, Henry Carr, 1941

    • I didn’t know that painting and have thoroughly enjoyed looking at his paintings on that site: criminally overlooked when people are always focusing on Ravilious et al. I might have said before but I didn’t know his work until I was reading the Folio edition of The Go-Between… recently I saw this painting again:

      …I’ve known and enjoyed it when visiting over the years and last time I went realised the artist. Love the way he uses the dummy boards; I wonder if they’re a comment on how Julius Drewe built the castle in the 1920s to recreate a medieval estate?

      I was lucky enough to find a huge Imperial War Museum catalogue of their oil paintings for a fiver in the shop – packed with paintings, although a lot of them are stamp size, it’s great record of what is out there.

      • I think that he is a marvelous painter but I am biased because he was a good friend. I think of him, among other things, as Francis Bacon for grown-ups. There are several posts about him on my blog tagged ‘Carel Weight’.

        The Go Between works are nice but I don’t think (and he didn’t think) that Folio did him any favours with the way they realised them. The colour separation is very crude.

        I hadn’t seen the painting of Basil Drewe before, and it’s very good. Carel was a lovely man but he was brutal with his sitters and they always look a little bit frightened, even if they were masters of the universe and entitled to be there.

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