Behind Barbed Wire'
- stark images at the Walker
The exhibition runs until 3 May
A new exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery 'Art Behind Barber Wire'
features remarkable and previously unseen drawings and watercolours of
the Second World War internment camp at Huyton.
It reveals stark images by two artists who were interned in the camp.
Hugo Dachinger, from Vienna, Austria, and Walter Nessler, from Dresden,
Germany, fled to England as war loomed.
Dachinger (1908-1995) was Jewish while Nessler (1912-2001) painted what
the Nazis called 'Degenerate Art'. When war broke out both were sent to
an internment camp at Huyton, which at that time was being developed to
provide overspill housing for Liverpool.
While inside, these artists produced a series of fascinating watercolours
and sketches of scenes in the camp, painted on fragile newspaper (including
copies of The Times and Guardian), wallpaper, and other scrapes of paper
because no proper artists' materials were available.
Through the double barbed-wire fence, internees were able to observe
life going on in the estate. At first, they were crammed into houses,
but as their numbers increased to almost 5,000, they spilt over into tents
and huts. "Conditions were appalling," said curator Jessica
Feather, "The tents became waterlogged, and the men slept on straw
mattresses. As a result, many suffered from chronic influenza and pneumonia.
"The art works of Dachinger and Nessler perfectly capture the stifling
atmosphere of uncertainty and quiet desperation in the camp." she
added. "As fierce opponents of the Hitler regime, some of whom had
been imprisoned in concentration camps in Germany, the refugees were shocked
to find themselves interned. Yet the British public was led to believe
that they were Nazis, and when they arrived at Liverpool Lime Street station,
they were shouted at and spat upon."
The art they produced at Huyton lay forgotten in attics until they died.
It is shown at the Walker alongside drawings of a German POW camp by Thomas
Burke, a captured Liverpool artist and merchant seaman.