A Shell Forge at a National Projectile Factory, Hackney Marshes, London, 1918

Anna Airy1918

Imperial War Museums

Imperial War Museums

Anna Airy was one of the first women to be officially commissioned as a war artist. Trained at the Slade School of Fine Art, she was a gifted painter in oil and watercolour as well as an etcher, and she exhibited work at the Royal Academy (RA) throughout her career. Airy was commissioned by the Munitions Committee of the Imperial War Museum in June 1918 to produce four pictures. These were to depict munitions production at a crucial stage in the First World War when the tactical use of heavy artillery had become central to the success of the Allied forces.Airy was unusual amongst the official women war artists of the First World War in entering and recording male workplaces. Here she captures the dramatic colours of the hot steel, the huge open space of the factory floor, and the complex light from furnaces and sunlight. This piece was a particular challenge for Airy who had to work with great speed to capture the colour of the molten shells. The tremendous heat of the interior added to the intensity, and one one occasion she records that the ground became so hot that her shoes were burnt off her feet. Like many successful artists of her generation, Anna Airy has since suffered a degree of neglect, overshadowed by the arrival of Modernists such as Paul Nash.

Show lessRead more
  • Title: A Shell Forge at a National Projectile Factory, Hackney Marshes, London, 1918
  • Creator: Airy, Anna
  • Date Created: 1918
  • Location: Hackney, London, England, UK
  • Physical Dimensions: w2133 x h1828 mm (unframed)
  • Provenance: © IWM (Art.IWM ART 4032)
  • Type: painting
  • External Link: Imperial War Museum website
  • Medium: oil