Reality in flames: modern Australian art and the Second World War

31 August – 20 October

Reality in flames explores the different ways in which Australian modernist artists responded creatively to the war, producing work which sought to comprehend cataclysmic events. It also provides a visual history of the period, revealing the war as a transformative force that altered Australia and the world.

The exhibition consists of 88 works of art drawn from the Australian War Memorial’s collection, which forms one of the most diverse and comprehensive accounts of Second World War Australian modernist art. Many were created through the official war art scheme, where artists were commissioned to record the experience of Australians fighting overseas or of home-front wartime activity – a tradition that began during the First World War and continues today. The Memorial has continued to enhance its collection of works from this period through an active program of acquisitions and donations, and the collection is now one of the most diverse and comprehensive accounts of this period in Australian military, social, and art history.

This is the first exhibition dedicated exclusively to exploring the reactions of Australian modernist artists to the Second World War. Artists have always played a crucial role in recording and interpreting the Australian experience of war, and the works in this travelling exhibition explore both the dangers soldiers faced abroad and the challenges war brought to the home front and to Australian society itself.

An Australian War Memorial Touring Exhibition.




Image: SYBIL CRAIG Girls working in the Container Production Room (Commonwealth Explosives Factory, Maribyrnong) 1945, oil on artist’s board. ART23507, Image courtesy of the Australian War Memorial.