Liss Llewellyn Fine Art - 20th Century British Art

Cliff Rowe (1904-1989)   BIOGRAPHY

The Call- out, circa 1941
Framed (ref: 5109)
Signed in the plate
15 x 21 in. (38 x 53.2 cm)


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

Literature: WW2 - War Pictures by British Artists, Edited by Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2016, cat 23, page 60-61.

Rowe was a politically active artist – in the early 1930s he 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 lithographic poster (produced to aid the war effort) Rowe depicts a National Fire Service crew scramble to their truck in response to an ominous glow on the horizon. With little protective gear other than a steel helmet and a pair of gum boots these volunteers were transported in trucks equipped with extension ladders and a trailer holding baskets to move rubble and trestles to prop up masonry or roof structures that had collapsed. 
All of the Municipal Fire and Rescue services suffered casualties during raids, not only from High Explosives dropped by the enemy, but from the falling debris from exploded shells fired by British anti-aircraft artillery batteries. 

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