BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

18 September 2014
Accessibility help
Wars and Conflict

BBC Homepage

Contact Us

Art and Daily Life in World War Two

By Roger Tolson
An Aircraft Assembly Shop in Hendon by Anna Airey
An Aircraft Assembly Shop, Hendon, 1918 by Anna Airey, Imperial War Museum, 213cm x 183cm, oil on canvas ©
<< Previous 1 2 3 4  Next >>
An Aircraft Assembly Shop, Hendon, 1918
Detail of 'An Aircraft Assembly Shop' showing DH 9 planes are being moved through production
DH 9 planes are being moved through production ©
The scene is the interior of the Aircraft Manufacturing Company erecting shop and DH 9 planes are being moved through various stages of production. On the left, the fuselages are being constructed to be run up the ramp at the back of the factory into the upper shop. There the machines are fitted out and given individual numbers and markings. Workers are grouped together according to trades. The layout represents the first tentative moves towards the mass production methods developed by Henry Ford in the United States. However, skilled craftsmen and women are being employed. This is a transition from their specialist skills to machine-led repetition.
Detail of 'An Aircraft Assembly Shop' showing some of the shop's work force
The painting acknowledges the contribution of the work force to the war effort ©
Before World War One, industrial production as the subject of painting was unusual. The source and manufacturing of consumer goods was usually ignored or deliberately concealed. The commissioning of artists to record these subjects during World War One reflects a curious change in attitude. These paintings were not only a means of recording and acknowledging the work force’s contribution to the war effort, but also reflects the wider population’s need to know that the resources to make the armaments to fight the war were there and being used.
War time industry
Aerial power became a critical factor in World War One and Hendon, with its large training school, a focus for aircraft production. Production rates were critical; the wood and canvas structures of the bi-planes deteriorated rapidly and the development of fighter planes further increased losses. Germany had held the upper hand at the start of 1917, shooting down a third of all British planes on the Western Front in April, but their production fell significantly behind France and Britain that year and with the introduction of new allied machines, the balance of power shifted through to the end of the war.
The artist
Anna Airy (1882-1964) trained at the Slade with William Orpen and Augustus John and was recognised as one of the leading women artists of her generation. She was given commissions in a number of factories and painted her canvases on site, in awkward and at times dangerous conditions.
Explore this theme further.

Back to index

'Wars and conflict' trail
The Home Front
Art and War

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy