Women war artists have acted as witnesses to many of the major conflicts of the twentieth century, from the First and Second World Wars to the current engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some have been commissioned through Official War Art schemes; others have worked independently, bringing an unofficial and independent perspective to our view of conflict. Until recently, their treatment and their access to front-line battle situations has been markedly different to that of their male counterparts. Given these constraints, their achievement in creating works of power, authority and insight deserves far greater recognition. Rather than being an exhaustive survey, this book takes the cases of individual artists and examines both their stories and their art. In the First World War, Olive Mudie-Cooke was a pioneer, gaining access via medical service at the front. In the Second World War Dame Laura Knight, the first woman to be made an RA, was officially commissioned, as was Mary Kessell. Linda Kitson was the first woman to be 'embedded' as a war artist with frontline troops in the Falklands.
Nikki Bell, of contemporary art duo Langlands & Bell, was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum to work in Afghanistan. From women's representations of the "Blitz" and the liberation of Belsen to contemporary icons like Rachel Whiteread's Holocaust Monument in Vienna, Kathleen Palmer explores the unique contribution made by women artists to our understanding of war.