'Art Behind Barbed Wire'
- stark images at the Walker

The exhibition runs until 3 May
Admission: free

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

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.