James Boswell: Unofficial War Artist
by Will Feaver

James Boswell left his native New Zealand in 1925 to study painting in London at the Royal College of Art but was soon in the vanguard of the young intellectuals who belonged to the radical movement. By the early thirties he had given up painting and devoted himself exclusively to the struggle against Nazism in Europe and fascism at home. Satirical drawings and cartoons poured from his pen, appearing in The Daily Worker, The Daily Mirror, pamphlets and propaganda. In 1933 he was a founder member of The Artists International Association (AIA). In 1936 he began work in the design studio of the Asiatic Oil Company (now Shell Oil). He was called up in 1941 as a private in the RAMC and trained as a radiographer. He drew extensively scenes from army life. 1943 saw him in Iraq where he filled his sketchbooks (now in the possession of The Tate Gallery, The British Museum and the Imperial War Museum) with luminous desert scenes, the daily life of the soldier and with a remarkable set of passionate anti-war drawings, the peak of his work as a satirical artist.

In 1947 Boswell became Art Editor of Lilliput. Richard Bennett was editor. Together they produced a magazine that has remained unique, gathering round them a group of talented artists and writers - Ronald Searle, John Minton, André François, Gerard Hoffnung, James Fitton and James Holland, Edward Ardizzone, Paul Hogarth, Quentin Blake and many others. He had returned to painting and, in 1951, was commissioned to paint a huge mural in the Festival of Britain's Sea and Ships Pavilion. For the remainder of his life he concentrated on painting, held many exhibitions and illustrated books and record sleeves. 1967 saw a large exhibition at the Commonwealth Institute. In 1970 Boswell was commissioned by British Petroleum to paint a mural for their new building in Wellington, NZ. It is called The Golden Day and is now hanging in the Palmerston North Art College, New Zealand. Its five panels follow the passing of the day, from dusk to evening. It is his last work. For more information go to


Paperback with jacket
136 pages
220 x 270 mm
ISBN 978-0-9547959-2-4

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About the Author

William Feaver. Born 1942, painter, writer, critic, formerly of The Listener, Sunday Times and, for many years, The Observer. His Pitmen Painters was the basis for Lee Hall’s The Pitmen Painters, first staged in Newcastle, then at the National Theatre, London. It is going on to New York, Seoul and elsewhere. His most recent books, since Boswell, have been on Lucian Freud and Frank Auerbach.