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Rupert Shephard

Rugby Collection War Art

The War Artists Advisory Committee

Throughout the ages many artists have found war fascinating. Their paintings, drawings, sculptures and photos give an insight into life during war time including what is was like in battle, or at home. During World War II, the government employed over three hundred artists to document what was happening in this country and abroad. These artworks were kept at the Imperial War Museum. Some Official War Artists were commissioned to record life on the battle fields, others the changes to industry and transport. Other artists such as Rupert Shephard submitted their own works to the committee.  In 1947, the Imperial War Museum distributed the artworks from the War Artists Advisory Committee to public art galleries so that people across the country had access to a permanent record and reminder of life during the war. The Rugby Collection has eight of these artworks, including two by Rupert Shephard highlighting ‘Women in Industry’ and two by Thomas Hennell.

Rupert Shephard (1909 – 1992)

Rupert Shephard studied at the Slade under Henry Tonks from 1926 – 1929. He exhibited with the London Group and Euston Road School painters, and shared studios with William Coldstream and Victor Pasmore. He produced individual portrait commissions, many of which are in public collections; The National Portrait Gallery holds portraits of Dylan Thomas by the artist. Later he also worked as a draughtsman in a factory that became part of the war effort alongside submitting artworks to the War Artist Advisory Committee. Following a breakdown in 1943, Shephard focused on his artwork and in 1945 became an Official War Artist to the Ministry of Transport.  After the war he taught at Central and St. Martin’s Schools of Art and in 1948 took the post of Professor of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town. He returned to London in 1963.

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Rupert Shephard (1909 - 1992)  Women in Industry: Three Women Drilling 1943  Pastel on paper   Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, Rugby Borough Council, Presented by the War Artists' Advisory Committee (1947)

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Rupert Shephard (1909 - 1992)  Aircraft Components Factory: Girls Working Drilling Machines 1941 Pastel on paper © Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, Rugby Borough Council, Presented by the War Artists' Advisory Committee (1947)

These pastel drawings show women working within a factory environment. Despite the role of women in the World War I and the suffragette movement, factories were still a male dominated environment. With most of the men involved in the war women stepped forward to keep the country going. Many worked in factories making weapons, ammunition and transport needed for the war effort.

Rupert Shephard would have been around the age of 33 when he produced ‘Three Women Drilling’. He would have visited the factories and watched the women work, paying particular attention to the factory surroundings, the activity and the atmosphere. Due to the enforced ‘black out’ the factories had to block all windows; Shephard would have had limited light whilst creating this picture.

Imperial War Museum records show that ‘Girls Working Drilling Machines’ was one of five pictures recommended by the War Artists Advisory Committee for purchase in 1941 for a total of 30 guineas.  ‘Three Women Drilling’ was one of five in purchased in 1943, again for a total of 30 guineas.

Click links for further images by Rupert Shephard and more information on the artist himself.