Portsmouth Blitz painting portraying bombing horror comes to city for first time

Night Raid on Portsmouth Docks 1941, by Richard Eurich Picture: Tate  London
Night Raid on Portsmouth Docks 1941, by Richard Eurich Picture: Tate London

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A PAINTING showing the devastating effect of the 1941 Blitz on Portsmouth dockyard is on show in the city to mark the 76th anniversary of the Second World War bombings.

Night Raid on Portsmouth Docks, by Richard Eurich, has been loaned by the Tate to Portsmouth Museum – the first time it has been on display locally.

This very sombre painting shows a terrible time in our city’s history. It’s fitting to be able to display it at this time.

Tory culture boss, Councillor Linda Symes

Mr Eurich was one of the official war artists sent by the Ministry of Information to record attacks on strategically important ports and industrial cities, and was given unrestricted access.

He made drawings for the painting in Portsmouth the day after heavy bombing raids in January 1941, then returned to London to work on it. It was completed in 1942.

He wrote: ‘The topography is pretty accurate though telescoped a bit in places. It was done from the signal tower, which explains the elevation. HMS Victory can be seen over the roof tops.’

Portsmouth endured 67 air raids during the war.

The night of January 10 to 11 1941, when about 170 people died and more than 400 were injured, is widely regarded as the worst. The painting is being shown as part of the Edward King: a Life in Art exhibition. King was living in the city during the war and documented the aftermath of air raids in his paintings.

He and Mr Eurich were independently documenting different parts of the city at the same time.

The dockyard was an area to which Mr King did not have access, so this painting completes the picture of Portsmouth’s experience at that time.

Tory culture boss, Councillor Linda Symes, said: ‘This very sombre painting shows a terrible time in our city’s history. It’s fitting to be able to display it at this time.

‘It’s interesting that the artist chose to show HMS Victory, recalling a glorious naval history amid all the chaos and destruction around.’

The painting is on display until June 30. Portsmouth Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm. Admission is free.

Go to portsmouthmuseums.co.uk or call (023) 9282 6722.