Peter Kennard: Unofficial War Artist

Crushed Missile, 1980. Original photomontage © Peter Kennard

The first major retrospective of the work of political artist Peter Kennard opens at London’s Imperial War Museum in May, with over 200 pieces spanning almost 50 years. Alongside some of his haunting paintings and photomontages, some of which are shown below, will be a new installation reflecting on the human and financial cost of war…

Born in London in 1949, Kennard is one of the UK’s best known and most influential political artists. Spread over four gallery rooms, Unofficial War Artist will showcase work from throughout his career, from his early STOP paintings depicting political unrest and conflict in the late 1960s, via images of riots, demonstrations and anti-Vietnam War protests, to his 2004 series, Decorations, made in response to the Iraq War. A collection of digital prints treated with oil, the series features images of tattered ribbons from military medals, with medallions replaced by images of explosions, weaponry and wounded soldiers.

Earth Oil Explision, 1985. Photomontage on paper © Peter Kennard

The show will also include a gallery space made to look like an archival store, where some of Kennard’s most iconic works from Haywain with Cruise Missiles to Warhead (pictured below) will be displayed on t-shirts, badges, pamphlets and posters alongside the original pieces. In another room will be his 1997 installation, Reading Room, made up of a series of portraits photocopied on to the financial pages of newspapers and distorted with charcoal in a comment on the “relentless international presence” of global markets.

His new installation, Boardroom, is described as a look at the history of war and conflict from the mid-twentieth century to the present day, and will feature recurring images from Kennard’s work alongside numbers displaying the human and financial cost of war, a display which he says will change and evolve throughout the duration of the exhibition.

Peter Kennard: Unofficial War Artist opens on May 14 until May 30 and is free to enter – for details, see

Newspaper 8, 1994. Carbon toner, oil, charcoal, paster on newspaper, wood © Peter Kennard

Newspaper 1, 1994. Carbon toner, oil, charcoal, pastel on newspaper, wood © Peter Kennard

Warhead 1 (1981), original photomontage © Peter Kennard

Protect and Survive, 1981, photomontage on paper © Peter Kennard