James Boswell

Camp 17, Iraq


Not on display

James Boswell 1906–1971
Ink and watercolour on paper
Support: 352 × 505 mm
Presented by Ruth Boswell, the artist's widow 1977

Catalogue entry

T02255 CAMP 17, IRAQ 1943

Inscribed ‘Boswell/IRAQ/43’ b.r.
Ink and watercolour on paper, 13 7/8 × 19 7/8 (35.4 × 50.7)
Presented by Ruth Boswell 1977

Boswell joined the army in 1941 and became a radiographer in the RAMC, training in the military hospital on Millbank. He was sent East in 1942, and in 1943 spent about nine months on duty in the desert in Iraq. During this period and throughout the war he produced a large number of drawings and sketches of the desert and of army life, many of which were exhibited in an exhibition entitled ‘On Duty in the Desert’ at 84 Charlotte Street (the Charlotte Street Centre, a gallery run by F.D. Klingender) during May 1944. This exhibition was organised by Betty Boswell and was opened by Mrs Fraser the wife of the Prime Minister of New Zealand. T02255 was not exhibited then as it is clearly marked with this title on the reverse in Boswell's hand and no such title appears in the catalogue of works exhibited. Other desert drawings from this exhibition were reproduced in Our Time, June 1944 and Lilliput, September 1944.

Drawings very similar to T02255 exist (coll. Ruth Boswell) and in these works Boswell was trying to catch the spirit of the desert. Ruth Boswell told the compiler that the artist had been deeply moved by this period in the desert. He was fascinated with the flatness and extent of the landscape. He had used the time not only to draw and write about his surroundings, but also to fill several sketch books with sharply satirical statements about the organisation of the army and the ethics of war. He gave talks to the other soldiers about the position of the artist in society and these formed the basis of The Artist's Dilemma published in 1947. The desert scenes, which are strongly evocative works, contrast with his satirical styles and were a turn away from his political involvement in the period before the war. After the war, as well as continuing book and magazine illustration, he concentrated on landscape, and later, abstract paintings.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1976-8: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1979


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