William Feaver. James Boswell: Unofficial War Artist. London: Muswell Press, 2007. A few months ago Ruth Boswell emailed me about the Sudeten crisis posts I wrote in connect with a film script and novel she is working on. It turns out that not only was she the producer of the classic 70s SF show The Tomorrow People which I watched as a kid but also is the widow of James Boswell, a New Zealand-born artist I blogged about when Airminded was still young. The reason I wrote about him was a claim on the Tate's website that his (very evocative) lithographs entitled 'The Fall of London' were commissioned for Frank McIlraith and Roy Connolly's Invasion From the Air (1934), which was and is my favourite knock-out blow novel. While Ruth obviously wasn't around at the time, she tells me that James later said that they had been done for a young Communist Party member, who never turned up to collect them. That doesn't sound quite like either McIlraith or Connolly, from what I know of them (Connolly was an Australian journalist and editor who worked at Labor-affiliated newspapers; McIlraith, again either from Australia or NZ, may have had connections with the left but I haven't been able to pin him down; the book doesn't read as straightforward pro-Communist propaganda, though I suppose it is anti-fascist), which I must admit is a bit disappointing. But I am consoled by Ruth's very kind gift of this lavishly-illustrated catalogue (published by her own press) of James's wartime work, done while serving in ARP and the Army in London, Scotland and the very different landscape of Iraq. His observations of service life are particularly keen, but also some quite disturbing and somewhat surreal nightmare images. There's also a bit on his prewar output for Communist newspapers, including a great one published in Left Review in April 1938 with appeasement serving as a particularly flimsy 'Chamberlain' air raid shelter, entitled 'Design for dying'.
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