Imperial War Museum wins fight for Second World War art work at auction

  • 17 July 2008

The Imperial War Museum has today successfully acquired at auction 'The Echo of the Bombardment' by the prominent war artist Keith Vaughan, with a grant for the full cost of £34,850 from The Art Fund, the UK's leading independent art charity.

A number of private bidders had indicated they would step aside if the Museum did bid at auction, helping to keep the final price affordable to the Museum – rarely the case in today’s art market.

The striking watercolour is from a series of drawings and gouaches, which Vaughan collectively entitled Destruction of the Human City, and illustrates a personal response to the urban devastation that resulted from the air raids of the early 1940s, whilst evoking hope amongst the surrounding chaos.

David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said: “The Echo of the Bombardment is a powerful work by a great artist, which conveys the horror of the Blitz while also affirming the continuity of life. I am delighted The Art Fund was able to pay the full auction price and present the work to the Museum where it will add a new dimension to its outstandingly important collection of war art.”

Roger Tolson, Head of Curatorial Management at the Imperial War Museum, said: “This is a wonderful addition to the collection: such an articulate and deeply personal response to a momentous event sits at the core of the Museum’s purpose. We are very grateful to the Art Fund - without their support it would have been unaffordable.”

Vaughan was one of many official war artists who received short commissions administered by the War Artists Advisory Committee to record war time activity, during the Second World War. However the most expressive examples of Vaughan’s work were produced when he wasn’t under official auspices, but had the freedom to illustrate personal experiences of wartime activity in his leisure time, which resulted in work of a much more revealing nature. The Imperial War Museum’s Department of Art has been collecting examples of this ‘alternative’ work for over 20 years, and The Echo of the Bombardment will provide a key addition to their collection.


Notes to editors

1. The Art Fund is the UK’s leading independent art charity. It offers grants to help UK museums and galleries enrich their collections; campaigns on behalf of museums and their visitors; and promotes the enjoyment of art.
2. It is entirely funded from public donations and has 80,000 members. Since 1903 the charity has helped museums and galleries all over the UK secure 860,000 works of art for their collections.
3. Recent achievements include: helping secure Anthony d’Offay’s collection, ARTIST ROOMS, for Tate and National Galleries of Scotland in February 2008 with a grant of £1million; putting together a unique funding package to ensure Dumfries House in Ayrshire and its contents were secured intact for the nation in July 2007; and running the ‘Buy a Brushstroke’ public appeal which raised over £550,000 to keep Turner’s Blue Rigi watercolour in the UK.
4. For more information contact the Press Office on 020 7225 4888 or visit
5. ART AT THE IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM - The Imperial War Museum holds one of the greatest collections of 20th Century British art in the world. The art collection was first established during the First World War, and is now widely considered to be an unparalleled resource for the study of British art of the two world wars and beyond. For further information on the Art Collection see
6. IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, the national museum of the experiences of people who have lived, fought and died in conflicts involving Britain and the Commonwealth since 1914. The Imperial War Museum is the museum of everyone’s story: the history of modern war and people’s experience of war and wartime life in Britain and the Commonwealth. It is an educational and historical institution responsible for archives, collections and sites of outstanding national importance.
7. The Museum’s five branches include Imperial War Museum London, which houses the award-winning The Holocaust exhibition; the Second World War cruiser HMS Belfast; the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, housed in Churchill’s secret headquarters below Whitehall; Imperial War Museum Duxford, a world-renowned aviation and heritage complex; and Imperial War Museum North, one of the most talked-about Museums in the UK.
8. Press Contact: Laura McKechan 020 7416 5311 or Victoria Smith 020 7416 5497