Night Raid on Portsmouth Docks, 1941 (1942)
Photo: Tate (N05690)      
© Tate CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

Night Raid on Portsmouth Docks, 1941

1942

In a letter to Sydney Schiff (18 May 1942) Eurich wrote: 'Every square inch was painted complete, step by step, in glazes over a white ground ... full of startling detail and colour, hardly any white being used. I am hoping the result will be like a stained glass window in richness.' Arriving in Portsmouth the morning after the raid, which was a very heavy one, Eurich was laughingly told by an officer that his 'studio', an observation tower in the docks he often used as a vantage point from which to draw, no longer had any glass in it. …

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In a letter to Sydney Schiff (18 May 1942) Eurich wrote: 'Every square inch was painted complete, step by step, in glazes over a white ground ... full of startling detail and colour, hardly any white being used. I am hoping the result will be like a stained glass window in richness.' Arriving in Portsmouth the morning after the raid, which was a very heavy one, Eurich was laughingly told by an officer that his 'studio', an observation tower in the docks he often used as a vantage point from which to draw, no longer had any glass in it. Eurich used his own experience of the bombing raids on Southampton Docks close to his home to re-create this scene of nightmarish drama.

Nicholas Usherwood from ‘The Edge of All the Land’ 1994

13th May 1942: Started Portsmouth night bombing picture (30x50) “This is going to be the hell of a job, and no mistake, and will certainly take some weeks”.

20th August 1942: Portsmouth picture won’t pass the censor at present. “Damn it!”

31st March 1944: To London with ‘Bombardment of Salerno’, ‘Fortresses over Southampton’, to Admiralty. ‘Night Raid on Portsmouth’ to the RA. Tried to find frame for ‘Cecilie’.

RE diary

The artist wrote (8 September 1956): ‘Painted not long after I became full time painter to the Admiralty. The drawings for this were made on the day after the heavy bombing partly due to the presence of two battleships in the harbour. The topography is pretty accurate though telescoped a bit in places. It was done from the signal tower, which explains the elevation. H.M.S. Victory can be seen over the roof tops.’

Tate website

"Eurich made the drawings for this work ‘the day after the heavy bombing partly due to the presence of two battleships in the harbour’. At the centre of Eurich’s composition is a vessel from an earlier conflict: HMS Victory, Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Its presence in the composition recalls a glorious naval history amid the chaos and destruction of the Blitz."

Gallery label, September 2016, Tate

More background notes and quotes on the Tate website referenced below. Also see below three of the sketches Richard did as references for the painting. They form a framed set titled 'Studies for the Blitz on Portsmouth", aka 'Three Studies, Portsmouth'. The set were shown at the Imperial War Museum and The Fine Art Society.

REP

" Dear Eurich, I have just seen for the first time the picture of Portsmouth Harbour and am writing to congratulate you on so fine a painting. It is a treat to see such a picture these days amid the sordid and arid pretentiousness of the school of Paris. May many such as this spring from your hand. Sincerely yours Victor Pasmore"

Provenance

COMMISSIONED | 1942

by the Admiralty / War Artists' Advisory Committee

EXHIBITED | 1944

"National War Pictures" - National Gallery, London

EXHIBITED | 29th Apr to 7th Aug 1944

"Summer Exhibition 1944" - Royal Academy of Arts, London

Cat 710

EXHIBITED | 23rd Mar 1945

"Fifty Second Spring Exhibition" - Cartwright Hall, Bradford Art Gallery

Cat 225

EXHIBITED | 13th Oct to 25th Nov 1945

"National War Pictures" - Royal Academy of Arts, London

Cat 325

GIFTED | 1946

Tate Britain, London

Presented by the War Artists Advisory Committee; accession number N05690

EXHIBITED | 25th Nov 1979 to 20th Jan 1980

"Richard Eurich, RA - A Retrospective Exhibition" - Cartwright Hall Gallery, Bradford District Museums and Galleries, Bradford    (toured Glasgow, London, Southampton)

Cat 28

EXHIBITED | 26th Sep to 19th Nov 1989

"World War Two" - Tate Liverpool, Liverpool

Cat 21

EXHIBITED | 26th Sep 1991 to 12th Jan 1992

"Richard Eurich - From Dunkirk to D-Day" - Imperial War Museum, London, UK

Cat 12

EXHIBITED | 28th Jan to 13th Mar 1994

"The Edge of all the Land: Richard Eurich 1903-1992" - Southampton City Art Gallery, Southampton    (toured to Manchester, Bradford, Ipswich)

Cat 31, illustrated

EXHIBITED | 20th Mar to 29th May 2004

"Sea Change - Paintings by Richard Eurich in War and Peace" - St. Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington

EXHIBITED | Jan to 30th Jun 2017

"Edward King: A Life in Art" - Portsmouth City Museum, Portsmouth

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Provenance:

  • COMMISSIONED - 1942 - by the Admiralty / War Artists' Advisory Committee
  • GIFTED - 1946 - Tate Britain, London
    Presented by the War Artists Advisory Committee; accession number N05690

Exhibitions:

  • 1944 - "National War Pictures", National Gallery, London
  • 29th Apr to 7th Aug 1944 - "Summer Exhibition 1944", Royal Academy of Arts, London
    Cat 710
  • 23rd Mar 1945 - "Fifty Second Spring Exhibition", Cartwright Hall, Bradford Art Gallery
    Cat 225
  • 13th Oct to 25th Nov 1945 - "National War Pictures", Royal Academy of Arts, London
    Cat 325
  • 25th Nov 1979 to 20th Jan 1980 - "Richard Eurich, RA - A Retrospective Exhibition", Cartwright Hall Gallery, Bradford District Museums and Galleries, Bradford    (toured Glasgow, London, Southampton)
    Cat 28
  • 26th Sep to 19th Nov 1989 - "World War Two", Tate Liverpool, Liverpool
    Cat 21
  • 26th Sep 1991 to 12th Jan 1992 - "Richard Eurich - From Dunkirk to D-Day", Imperial War Museum, London, UK
    Cat 12
  • 28th Jan to 13th Mar 1994 - "The Edge of all the Land: Richard Eurich 1903-1992", Southampton City Art Gallery, Southampton    (toured to Manchester, Bradford, Ipswich)
    Cat 31, illustrated
  • 20th Mar to 29th May 2004 - "Sea Change - Paintings by Richard Eurich in War and Peace", St. Barbe Museum and Art Gallery, Lymington
  • Jan to 30th Jun 2017 - "Edward King: A Life in Art", Portsmouth City Museum, Portsmouth

Notes:

  • None recorded.

Sketches  

Sketch_20-070 Portsmouth docks (1942)

Image © Richard Eurich Paintings

Related  

aka Three Studies, Portsmouth

Studies for the Blitz on Portsmouth (1942)
aka Three Studies, Portsmouth
Image © Richard Eurich Paintings

 

top study

top study
Image © Richard Eurich Paintings

 

middle study

middle study
Image © Richard Eurich Paintings

 

bottom study

bottom study
Image © Richard Eurich Paintings

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References:

  • The Art of Richard Eurich (Andrew Lambirth, pub. 2020: Lund Humphries, 170 colour illustrations, ISBN 9781848221727) [fig 41, pg 59]
  • “Edge of All the Land” Southampton (1994) (Southampton City Art Gallery / Nicholas Usherwood.) [Figure 31]
  • Tate collection [Tate.org.uk]
  • Art UK [artuk.org]
  • War Paint: Art, War, State and Identity in Britain, 1939–1945 (by Brian Foss, pub. Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0-300-10890-3, 2007) [illustrated, Fig. 19, pg. 32]
  • The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture (Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Oldbourne Press, 1964)
  • "An eye for detail" (by Frances Spalding, pub. The Independent Magazine, 26 March 1994) [pp 26-27]
  • ‘Night Raid on Portsmouth Docks’ by Richard Eurich On Loan to Portsmouth City Museum (by Paul Gonella, pub. Strong Island (21 December 2016)) [illustration]
  • 'Night Raid on Portsmouth Docks’ signed 1941 - A Wartime Incident by Richard Eurich (1903-1992), THE ELUSIVE MR BEARE AND OTHER ESSAYS [ISBN 978 0 9559118 1 1] (Nigel Surry, Fortune Press, 2015)
  • William Rothenstein & Richard Eurich - WAR ARTISTS [Fourth in a series in the Not Just Hockney series of books about past artists from the Bradford district.] (Colin Neville, Not Just Hockney, 2021) [pg 14]
  • A Tradition of His Own (by Jonathan Meades, pub. Modern Painters, 1994) [p. 44]
  • Art UK Curations 3 [Themed groups of works selected from the Art UK online catalogue by art professionals and members of the public.] [Artists and wartime places: Richard Eurich | curated by David Saywell, Head of Digital Assets, Art UK]
  • Art UK Stories [Online essays about every aspect of art. Interviews with a wide range of artists, known and unknown.] [The unexpected poetry of Richard Eurich's paintings]