When in London last I went down to the Imperial War Museum because, as regulars here will know, war art speaks to me and their collection is the best as they did most of the commissioning. Not much is on display at the moment due to refurbishment but they do have a selection from their collection in an exhibition entitled "The Architecture of War"
A high proportion of the work was made by artists I had previously overlooked or never stumbled across (DIY art history education is good but sometimes it misses out important things). I don't really want to talk about the exhibition today - I'd rather highlight this painting.
Thornycroft spent chunks of the war wandering round London sketching. Not being having a permit, she could easily have ended up in hot water just for that as, not unreasonably, people drawing or photographing damage or even slightly military things were regarded with a lot of suspicion. This picture was a result of these wanderings. It was made in 1977 from memory. Thornycroft wrote to the Imperial War Museum in June this year to tell them a little more about the painting.
I really respond to the feel of this picture. There is a perkiness about the smiling lady despite the darkness of her eyes, her head wound, her grey pallor and the fact her hair is still in shock. There is a joy and a thankfulness about her and she strikes me as a counterpoint to the line from Full Metal Jacket: "The dead know only one thing. It is better to be alive." Never has a cup of tea tasted sweeter, or a wooden chair felt more comfortable.