During World War II a War Advisory Artists Committee (WAAC) was put in place to ensure the survival of British art; it was chaired by Sir Kenneth Clark. A further organisation was established, under journalist Seflon Delmar, to create ‘Black’ propaganda, its aim being to inflict psychological warfare on the enemy by creating false information.
In her novel Warpaint, Alicia Foster draws together WAAC and BLACK, exploring the efforts of those in power who, with hand-picked teams, controlled covert aspects of overseas intelligence to the enemy. The more wholesome images of survival on the home front are depicted through the lives and work of female artists during the time.
The story covers a period of four months from December 1942. Interweaving historical figures with fictional characters based on real people, the research is impressive. The sadness, loss and depth of emotion described in this period of great conflict are vividly tangible.
A rather beautiful book, and tight, in that it shows no digression by straying into areas the story does not define. Visiting the Tate and Imperial War Museum to view the war paintings of Dame Laura Knight RA and those of her talented colleagues is almost essential after reading this novel.