Art institution Tate have loaned Night Raid on Portsmouth Docks 1941, a painting by Richard Eurich, to Portsmouth City Museum, putting it on display locally for the first time.
The Ministry of Information — the wartime government department perhaps best known for their iconic Keep Calm and Carry On poster — employed Eurich as one of their official war artists, sent out to record attacks on strategically important ports and industrial cities.
He was given unrestricted access, and made drawings for the painting in Portsmouth the day after heavy bombing raids in January 1941, before returning to London to work on it. The painting was completed in 1942.
He wrote: “The topography is pretty accurate though telescoped a bit in places. It was done from the signal tower, which explains the elevation. HMS Victory can be seen over the roof tops.”
Portsmouth endured 67 air raids during the war. The night of 10th/11th January 1941, when around 170 people died and more than 400 were injured, is regarded as the worst.
The painting is being shown as part of the Edward King: a Life in Art exhibition. King was living in the city during the war, and documented the aftermath of air raids in his paintings.
He and Eurich were independently documenting different parts of the city at the same time. The dockyard was an area to which King did not have access, so this painting completes the picture of Portsmouth’s experience at that time.
Councillor Linda Symes, Portsmouth City Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure, and Sport, said: “This very sombre painting shows a terrible time in our city’s history. It’s fitting to be able to display it at this time.
“It’s interesting that the artist chose to show HMS Victory, recalling a glorious naval history amid all the chaos and destruction around.”
The painting is on display through to the 30th June. Portsmouth Museum is open from Tuesdays through Sundays, from 10:00am to 5:00pm, and admission is free.