Unofficial War Artist

Until 30 May 2016 be sure to witness an incredible collection of the best of Peter Kennard work entitled ‘Unofficial War Artist’ that is held by Imperial War Museum. Kennard born in London in 1949 is one of the best politically involved artist in the UK. He draws inspiration from Picasso, Bacon, Sutherland, and Giacometti concentrating on human form. Early in his carrier Kennard focused his attention on paintings. Later on he started creating photomontages, which in his opinion possess an unspeakable power of uncovering the hidden truth and started using them to talk about violence (Kennard, 2015). Now ‘Kennard’s art has become synonymous with political activism’ (IWM, 2015).


‘Unofficial War Artist’ is a perfectly planed exhibition with a clear division and an excellent ending. As we enter the first room ‘DECORATION’ (2003 – 2004) we find our selves in front of six high paintings (belonging to a series of 18), which Kennard used to state his opinion about Iraq War and death that it had brought. These powerful paintings that bring to mind the sorrow silence after an interrupted scream makes you feel like you are the only one left breathing on the battlefield.

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Second section is a ‘STOP’ series of two-coloured photographs from the late 60s taken during riots.

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‘ARCHIVE’ is the third room and contains a selection of Kennard’s work done for various organisations during The Cold War. You can find here an impressive collection of posters, newspaper illustrations and more important original montages ‘which reveal the complex, hand-crafted processes required to generate his imagery’ (IWM, 2015).

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Next area is entitled ‘READING ROOM’ (1997) and focuses on the ‘New World Order’. It is actually a reconstruction of 1997 exhibition in Gimpel Fils gallery and is originally inspired by Paddington Library. On newspapers lying on couple of wooden lecterns you can see faces created using a combination of photographs and charcoal. In this room you can also see Kennard’s Newspaper series.

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‘FACE’ (2002 – 2003) is a series dedicated to artist’s first love – painting and human form. Although it may seem like a part cut and paste from another exhibition it found its way into the show as ‘the need to make the human image speak was established for’ the artist in his ‘adolescent years’ (Kennard, 2015).

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Last but definitely not least we reach the ‘BOARDROOM’ (2015) created especially for this exhibition. It’s a superb summary of not only the last 50 years of Peter Kennard’s carrier but also of last 50 years in world history.

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‘Unofficial War Artist’ exhibition does not leave you indifferent. Peter Kennard mastered the power of waking up unconscious masses. To the people who remember/experienced events shown here it’s a personal memento. Nevertheless this exhibition is equally important for the new generation as it contains bold statements and critics that are exceptionally helpful to better understand history that you were not a part of. I highly recommend this exhibition to everyone and moreover mark it as a must see to every activist.


  • Imperial War Museums (2015), Imperial War Museums. Available at: (Accessed: 27 October 2015).
  • Laura Cumming (2015), ‘Peter Kennard: Unofficial War Artist review – the king of political montage’, Unofficial War Artist, The Guardian (art & design section) 17 May.
  • Paul Kerley (2015), ‘Peter Kennard: A very unofficial war artist’, Unofficial War Artist, BBC News (Magazine section) 14 May.
  • Peter Kennard (2001), Peter Kennard. Available at: (Accessed: 29 October 2015).
  • Unofficial War Artist (2015) [Exhibition], Imperial War Museum, 14 May 2015 – 30 May 2016.

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