Captive Artists: The unseen art of British Far East prisoners of war

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The only book that really conveys in both a visual and verbal way just what it was like living through the nightmare of captivity in the Far East.



Captive Artists brings together for the first time this secret art, created by over 65 previously unrecognised artists, all British servicemen, who documented survival during Far East captivity. In colour, pencil, pen and ink, even needle and thread and clay, this uncompromising and at times challenging collection illustrates both the importance of art as therapy, and the resilience of the human spirit.

Risking harsh retribution, including beatings, further privations, and at the very least confiscation, Far East prisoners of war (FEPOW) were still determined to provide the world with visual accounts of their brutal existence.

Doing so was strictly forbidden, so their art had to be done on whatever scraps of paper or other materials they could beg, steal or borrow, and their paints and tools were ingeniously acquired or home made.

Humorous cartoons, caricatures and portraits bring the men to life. Glorious watercolours of landscapes, local flora and fauna, camp life and medical ingenuity poignantly reveal how the men lived and survived in the face of such deprivation and despair. Survival, and the artists’ need to record it in myriad ways, underpins this unique collection of unseen Second World War art. Not only is the art often of an astonishingly high standard, it is also a sobering but vital portrayal of man’s inhumanity to man.

Author: Meg Parkes, Geoff Gill, Jenny Wood
Imprint: Palatine Books
Binding: Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-910837-28-3
Extent: 400 pages
Format: 243 x 169 mm
Illustrations: over 270, colour
Pub. date: 2 December 2019

1 review for Captive Artists: The unseen art of British Far East prisoners of war

  1. Philip Mould, art historian, art dealer and broadcaster (BBC’s Fake or Fortune)

    “This wonderfully produced book expresses how unbreakable the human spirit can be in circumstances of unthinkable adversity. The art these men generated, so excellently exposited within these pages, reveals untold historical truths in ways that words alone could never impart.”

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