The Norwegian Coast: Spring 1940 – Charles Pears

Richard Maddox

BORN IN YORKSHIRE IN 1873, Charles Pears was an illustrator and lithographer known for his magazine, book and travel poster work, many for destinations served by British railway companies, London Underground and the Orient Steam Navigation Company.

However he is most recognised for his marine paintings executed in watercolours and oils.

In addition to serving in the Royal Marines during the First World War, he was an official war artist during both this and the later World War. (1)

He was one of the first Admiralty Official War Artists when appointed in December 1917. (2)

large_© IWM (Art.IWM ART LD 662)

THE NORWEGIAN COAST: SPRING 1940. Copyright © IWM. IWM catalogue reference Art.IWM ART LD 662. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/21428

During the Second World War, he received his first commission from the Ministry of Information’s War Artists Advisory Committee (WAAC) – a picture of a Channel convoy under attack. (3) (4)

There followed a series of commissions and purchases by the Committee.

In June 1942 two of his painting were on selected for a WAAC exhibition in South America, one of which was ‘The Norwegian Coast: Spring 1940‘, although at the time it was known as ‘Norwegian Neutrality‘.

While enroute to its destination both paintings were lost at sea.

He painted a replica of Norwegian Neutrality and presented this in May of 1943. The painting shows a Royal Navy destroyer steaming at speed through a choppy sea with spray breaking over it.

Behind it are merchant ships and spray breaks against a rocky coast line with snow-capped mountains in the distance. Low cloud scurries across the frame. (6)

With Norway occupied by German forces since June 1940, much discussion centred on a different title for the ‘new’ work. It was finally called The Norwegian Coast: Spring 1940.

THE NORWEGIAN COAST: SPRING 1940. IWM catalogue reference Art.IWM ART LD 662. More details can be found at http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/21428.

THE NORWEGIAN COAST: SPRING 1940. IWM catalogue reference Art.IWM ART LD 662. More details can be found at http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/21428. Image © R Maddox 2020.

It currently hangs in an area of IWM London not open to the public.

Sources

(1) http://www.victorianweb.org/art/illustration/pears/index.html – retrieved 1 March 2020

(2) https://museum.wales/art/online/?action=show_item&item=4607 – retrieved 1 March 2020

(3) https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1050000910 – retrieved 1 March 2020

(4) https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/21429 – retrieved 1 March 2020

(5) https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/1050000910 – retrieved 1 March 2020

(6) https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/21428 – retrieved 1 March 2020