Christopher Nevinson (1889-1946)
Acetylene Welder, Plate 39 in a set of six entitled Building Aircraft,
part of the set 'Building Aircraft' in the series of 66 lithographs entitled 'The Great War: Britain's Efforts and Ideals'
Lithograph with scratched highlights
Issued by the Ministry of Information
Museum no. Circ.258-1919
Nevinson was a painter of landscapes and urban and industrial subjects. He was also an accomplished print-maker who worked with etching and lithography.
He studied for a time in Paris, around 1912-13, and his subsequent style showed evidence of the influences of the new developments in European art, especially Cubism and Futurism.
In 1915, he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and was appointed as an Official War Artist in 1917. Fulfilling the commission for this series of prints was one of the conditions of his appointment. He also made paintings of several of the subjects he depicted in this series.
The civilian workforce was severely depleted in the period 1914 to 1918, because so many men had been called up for military service. This meant that women had to take on many occupations that had previously been reserved for men.
Many women worked in the munitions factories, building aircraft, and making weapons. Nevinson shows the women intent on their work, looking like identical robots, with their hair tied up to keep it out of the machinery, and goggles to protect their eyes from the sparks.
One munitions factory manager was delighted to employ women because he believed that 'Men will not stand the monotony of a fast repetition job like women, they will not stand by a machine pressing buttons all their lives, but a woman will.'
And a leaflet issued by the Ministry of Labour for the ship-building industry said 'The average woman takes to welding as readily as she takes to knitting once she has overcome any initial nervousness due to sparks.'
This print can be found in Prints and Drawings Study Room box EDUC 6.