Past Events

Concealment & Deception: The Art of the Camoufleurs of Leamington Spa, 1939-1945

Research Lunch – Chloe Johnson, Jeff Watkin

  • 10 March 2017
  • 12:30 – 2:30 pm
  • Seminar Room, Paul Mellon Centre

A group of artists and designers in the midlands town of Royal Leamington Spa made a secret contribution to the Allied victory in World War 2. A team of over 230 ‘camoufleurs’, including some of the leading artists and designers of the era, was assembled to help protect civil installations such as factories, power stations and airfields, and high value naval assets like battleships, cruisers and aircraft carriers. Using their artistic skills and experience, they created camouflage schemes which either concealed the target by causing it to merge into its surroundings, or deceived the eye as to its size and location. In their leisure time, the artists produced paintings recording their colleagues at work, or showing the sites and ships they had camouflaged. They also produced paintings showing the wartime town and its community, and created morale-raising murals for public buildings including the local British Restaurant.

The story of their work in Leamington, and its consequences for the cultural sector in post-war Britain, was told in an exhibition shown at Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum over summer 2016. Artists featured include Mary Adshead, Dorothy Annan, Stephen Bone, Louis Duffy, Evelyn Dunbar, Eric Hall, Christopher Ironside, Cedric Kennedy, Edwin La Dell, Colin Moss, Robin Darwin and James Yunge-Bateman. This presentation outlines the background to the creation of the exhibition and the associated catalogue.

Multi-coloured painting of factory chimneys

Colin Moss, Camouflaged Factory Buildings, 1939–41. Collection of the Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum.

Digital image courtesy of Courtesy of the artist’s estate

This seminar will also include a free tour of our current exhibtion 'The Price of War': Recording and Publishing and Preserving Art, 1939-1945

About the speakers

  • Head and shoulder portrait of a woman with short brown hair and black blouse

    Chloe Johnson is Senior Curator at Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum, where she oversees exhibitions and events and the care of the collections. She was previously a Curator at Tate, and completed her DPhil on Pre-Raphaelite art in 2008.

  • Head and shoulder portrait of a round headed man wearing glasses

    Jeff Watkin has been Heritage & Arts Manager for Warwick District Council since 1987. In addition to managing Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum he has been involved in cultural projects in the district including the relocation of Leamington Spa Art Gallery & Museum into the Royal Pump Rooms in 1999, and has contributed to a variety of exhibitions and publications concerned with the history of the area.