Period: The war years

At the Churchill Club, large and small worlds At the Churchill Club, large and small worlds
painted in London, 1945
oil on plywood 60.8 x 50.7 cm
signed l.r., oil “STELLA BOWEN”, not dated
Australian War Memorial
acquired under official war art scheme, 1945
ART26269

Stella Bowen’s love of painting interiors was called upon during her official war art commission. But these were now public rather than domestic scenes. The Churchill Club was one of dozens of clubs in London where servicemen and women could spend their recreation leave. Here they could have a cup of tea, write a letter home, and get a meal or a bed for the night. Bowen visited these clubs to record the activities of Australian airmen and ex-prisoners of war.

Bowen shows us an officer in a quiet moment, perhaps tracing the course of the war on the globe, or perhaps, like her, just thinking of home. A glimpse through to the garden suggests the universal need for a peaceful home, as much as for a peaceful world. In reality, these two worlds compete for our attention, but the painting shows them as they truly are, inseparable.