Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Cliff Rowe (1904-1989)   BIOGRAPHY

Parachute Flares, circa 1941
Framed (ref: 4651)
Oil on canvas
19 3/4 x 13 in. (50 x 33 cm)


Exhibited: WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Morley College London, 28 October -23 November 2016, cat 142. 

Literature: WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Edited by Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2016, cat 142, page 183.

During the early 1930's Rowe made designs for Communist Party publications and spent eighteen months travelling and working in the Soviet Union.  In 1934 he  helped establish the Artists' International Association whose work included helping refugees from Hitler's Germany and providing medical aid to the British International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War.

In this painting though the town has already clearly suffered extensive damage from bombing, the Luftwaffe has returned.  Parachute flares have been dropped in an effort to illuminate the target for the bombers while anti-aircraft fire from British batteries peppers the sky with red shell bursts.Target marking was used differently by the RAF and the Luftwaffe.  The latter literally attempted to illuminate the target so that their crews could visually identify their aiming points on the ground.  The techniques developed by Pathfinder Force for the RAF depended upon precision navigation. This meant that even in poor weather or cloud, when the target could not be seen at all by the high altitude Main Force, that if they dropped their loads on the marker flares positioned by the Pathfinders from low level, they knew that their bombs would be on the aiming points.Caught in the middle of the maelstrom that is about to break loose are the vehicles of the Fire or Rescue Services who braved the destruction to save as many lives and as much property as possible.

We are grateful to Andrew Cormack for assistance.

Cliff Rowe (1904-1989)

Artist and illustrator born in Wimbledon, south London. Rowe studied at Wimbledon School of Art, 1918-20 and the Royal College of Art, 1920-22. He was employed in advertising where he met R. O. Dunlop. and briefly became an exhibiting member of the short-lived Emotionist Group. However his strong social concerns led him towards the then burgeoning Communist party so he travelled to Russia and stayed in Moscow for a year and a half. While there he received commissions for book-jacket designs and even designed posters for the Red Army. Rowe returned to England and in 1934 helped establish the Artists' International Association, alongside James Fitton, James Boswell and others. Membership was to eventually reach more than 1000.

From the end of World War II Rowe's work included publicity poster commissions from the Labour government of Clement Attlee as well as trade unions, designs for the 1951 Festival of Britain, commercial mural design, exhibition design and text book illustration.The major part of Rowe's work however consists of large oil paintings, and the Tolpuddle Martyrs and General Strike murals commissioned by the Electrical Trades Union, then led by active members of the Communist Party. 

c. estate of Cliff Rowe

The People's History Museum, Manchester, the National Railway Museum, York, the Science Museum, London, New Walk Museum & Art Gallery, Leicester, Herbert Art Gallery and the Tate Gallery, London all hold examples of Rowe's work.

See all works by Cliff Rowe