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Norton Museum of Art highlights British fashion and design during World War II
Make Do and Mend, 1943. Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
WEST PALM BEACH, FL.- When the British government produced the poster “Keep Calm and Carry On” in 1939, it was a rallying cry for the public, and a demonstration of a new collaboration between the government and the creative class. The Norton Museum of Art opens its special exhibition season exploring the ways in which artists, designers, architects, and filmmakers in Great Britain bolstered a nation and helped win the war on the home front. Keep Calm and Carry On: World War II and the British Home Front, 1938-1951, opens Nov. 1, 2012 and runs through Jan. 20, 2013. (Companion programming includes the four-part series, Keep Calm and Carry On: British Films with Scott Eyman. Eyman, literary critic and arts writer for The Palm Beach Post, is a noted film historian and author.)

“Virtually every member of England's creative class, from fashion designer Hardy Amies to arts leader Kenneth Clark and writer Noel Coward, helped fight the war at home, not only by creating innovative designs that saved essential wartime materials, but also by injecting style, beauty, and high culture into the harsh realities of wartime life," said Donald Albrecht, curator of the exhibition.

Keep Calm and Carry On examines design between 1938 and 1951, the years immediately before, during, and after England’s participation in the war. The exhibition is divided into three sections:

• 1938-1945, Britain at War, which features women’s clothing from the era, rationing provisions, air raid shelters, propaganda films and graphic design, and copies of British Vogue.

• 1945-1951, Austerity Britain, which highlights post war revitalization of the automobile industry, progressive architecture in government housing, and modern domestic designs.

• 1951, The Festival of Britain, which, through film, examines a government-organized exhibition that highlighted Britain’s contributions to industrial design, architecture, science, technology, and the arts.

For greater context of the social, cultural, and political dimensions of the struggles on the home front, the exhibition includes clips from films and speeches that were popular during the era. Photographs also will help visitors understand what daily life on the home front looked like.

The exhibition begins with the preparations for war in 1938 and ends with a coda devoted to the major design events in the years directly following the war that were pivotal in Britain’s conversion from a wartime nation to a peacetime nation. Included are objects and images from the 1946 Britain Can Make It exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, and the 1948 Earl’s Court Auto Show.

“The Norton exhibition will continue to explore the ideas and work presented in the MFA Boston’s excellent, focused exhibition Beauty as Duty: Textiles and the Home Front in WWII Britain,” said Norton Executive Director Hope Alswang. “World War II and the austerity measures that came along with it were pivotal in ushering a new era of modernism in Great Britain. The British creative class came together to support the war effort, unify the nation, and maintain morale, and, in the process, created a more egalitarian society. It’s been a fascinating road of discovery and we’re eager to share our new knowledge with our visitors.”

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