British wartime internment of foreign nationals seems to have been a recurring theme for me this year. I already knew about World War Two internment camps on the Isle of Man (see my earlier blog post on Franz Hildebrandt) but was not aware that this had also happened during World War One until, on a visit to Liverpool, I came across the story of Carl Bartels, designer of the famous Liver Birds on the Royal Liver Building. Shortly afterwards I read a review of Simon Parkin’s new book The Island of Extraordinary Captives (e-Legal Deposit) about the interned artist Peter Midgley. Then I happened to unearth a cutting from the Observer that I had been sent in September 1988 in which Neal Ascherson wrote engagingly about a reissue (539:1.c.805.63) of François Lafitte’s 1940 book The internment of aliens, a contemporary criticism of government policy (the article can be viewed online if you have Raven access). And as the current government’s Rwanda deportation plan was announced it was easy to be reminded of wartime deportations and the tragedy of the Arandora Star.
In this blog post I will look in more detail at two German artists who share the internment experience, both of whom I have mentioned before in previous blog posts: John Heartfield (see German theatre premières in 1922) and Kurt Schwitters (see On the fringes of Dada in Berlin). A later post will consider some less well-known German artists who also endured internment. Continue reading