Australian official war artists - Second World War

During the Second World War there were two separate commissioning programs for official war artists.

One program was administered by the Australian War Memorial. Under this, artists who were already enlisted or were civilians were given honorary commissions as officers.

The other program was administered by Lieutenant Colonel John Treloar, Director of the Australian Military History Section (who had been seconded from his pre-war position as Director of the Australian War Memorial). Artists who were already serving with the Army, Navy, or Air Force, were personally selected by Treloar, and simply seconded to work as artists attached to the Military History Section.

Other Second World War commissioning programs

The following Commonwealth agencies also operated smaller commissioning schemes, and presented some of these works to the Australian War Memorial after the war.

Allied Works Council

In 1943, under the directorship of the elder Frank Packer, the Allied Works Council (AWC) commissioned two artists working with its manpower agency, the Civil Construction Corps, to record the activities of the AWC. These works were later presented to the Memorial.

RAAF War History Section

In 1945 three artists already serving with the Royal Australian Airforce (RAAF) were seconded to the RAAF War History Section as artists. Their works were later distributed among the Memorial, the state galleries, and RAAF bases.

RAN Historical Records Section

The Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Historical Records Section commissioned two serving members of the RAN as war artists. Examples of their work were subsequently presented to the Memorial.

  • Rex Julius (1914–1944)
  • Jeffery Wilkinson (1921–1997)

Post–Second World War

BCOF, Japan

In 1949 the artist George Colville approached the Army Director of Public Relations with a request to travel to Japan to depict the activities of British Commonwealth Occupation Force (BCOF) in Japan. It was agreed that the Army would provide him with transport and accommodation, the Memorial would provide art materials, and in exchange the Memorial would be able to select 20 of the resulting paintings for its collection.


Stella Bowen: Art, Love & War (on display 2002–2004)

Shaping memory: sculpture at the Australian War Memorial (on display 2004)

Shared experience: art and war: Australia, Britain & Canada in the Second World War (on display 2005–2006)

Ivor Hele, Head study (Lieutenant Colin Wade), ART22866

Donald Friend, Map reading at night, ART23913

Murray Griffin, Bridge work, Burma-Thailand railway, ART25107

Nora Heysen, Sister Veronica Harbourd, ART24377

Charles Bush, Moresby picture show, ART26770

Lyndon Dadswell, Bomb thrower, ART40928

Herbert McClintock, Sections of buoyancy tank and floating caissons, Sydney graving dock, ART30254

Last updated: