Jewish war artist from East End showcased in Chichester exhibit
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Jewish war artist from East End showcased in Chichester exhibit

Barnett Freedman, born to a Russian Jewish immigrant family, conveyed some of the most iconic images of the Second World War

The Gun, 1940, Barnett Freedman (Credit: www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/3027, Wikimedia Commons)
The Gun, 1940, Barnett Freedman (Credit: www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/3027, Wikimedia Commons)

The paintings and illustrations of a Jewish war artist from the East End have gone on display in a new exhibit in Chichester.

Barnett Freedman, born in 1901 to Russian Jewish immigrants, conveyed some of the most iconic images of the Second World War before embarking on a career as an illustrator of everything from book and adverts to stamps.

Freedman developed his love of drawing while confined to bed during a childhood illness, and as his parents ran a Stepney tailoring business he began portraying the dirty faces of his bustling home city, later saying: “There’s nothing I hate more than clean air and wide open spaces.”

Nicknamed Soc, after Socrates, for his love of argument, he went through the early 1940s illustrating all manner of those employed in the war effort, including gunmen, submariners, and munitions factory workers.

Before that, in 1930, just four years after leaving art school, his first major commission was to illustrate Siegfried Sassoon’s ‘Memoirs of an Infantry Officer,’ detailing his experience in the First World War.

Five years later he was chosen to design the 1935 postage stamp issues to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V, which led one newspaper of the time to call him “the best-selling artist in the world”.

His work, alongside those of his contemporaries and friends, including Eric Ravilious, is showing at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester until 1 November.

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