Art Behind Barbed Wire

Two rows of human figures sat on benches eating outside a tent

26 February 2004 - 03 May 2004

Amongst the large number of refugees arriving in Britain between 1933-39, a small but significant number were artists, fleeing persecution for their opposition to Hitler's regime. Many who reached Britain were subsequently interned.

Established and younger artists and a variety of artistic styles were represented in the internment camps. Most famous was the artistic community in Hutchinson Camp, Douglas, on the Isle of Man, which included the renowned Kurt Schwitters. Huyton Alien Internment Camp too had its distinguished artist residents, including John Heartfield, Martin Bloch and Samson Schames.

In 1999, Walker Art Gallery purchased a group of watercolours and drawings by two refugees, Hugo Dachinger and Walter Nessler which were created during the artists' internment at Huyton. They are shown here for the first time, a testament to the power of art to assert itself in desperate circumstances and a record of one of the more shameful episodes of British wartime history.

While inside, these artists produced a series of fascinating watercolours and sketches of scenes in the camp, painted on fragile newspaper including copies of The Times and Manchester Guardian and other scraps of paper because no proper artists' materials were available.

This exhibition also includes works from Walker Art Gallery's collection by Thomas Burke, a Liverpool-born artist who served as a Merchant Seaman and was captured and subsequently imprisoned at Milag Camp, Westertimke, Germany until 1945.