Refugee Week

15 June 2020

 This week is Refugee Week, a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees. We have been reflecting on Hampstead's history as a place of refuge for those who have found themselves displaced through religious, political or racial persecution. In particular, we've been exploring the objects in our collection made by or associated with the many European émigrés who came to Hampstead and the surrounding area during the 1930s and 40s and the communities of support that developed to help them.

This was the subject of our exhibition which opened last September, entitled 'Art Aiding Politics; Hampstead in the 1930s and 40s'. We were very proud that this exhibition was part of the Insiders/Outsiders festival, a nationwide arts festival celebrating refugees from Nazi Europe and their contribution to British culture. The Insiders/Outsiders team have also been celebrating Refugee Week with a series of online events which we shared in last week's newsletter. We hope you managed to join some of them!
The painting pictured above was made by the artist Fred Uhlman, himself a refugee from Nazi Germany who, alongside his wife Diana and other Hampstead residents, helped to set up the Artists' Refugee Committee (ARC) in 1938. Alongside the Uhlmans, founders included Roland Penrose, Stephen and Muirhead Bone and Richard Carline. In the exhibition, we highlighted the work of the ARC, which was established to help a group of exiled artists in Prague. The group called themselves the Oskar-Kokoschka-Bund (OKB), after the expressionist painter whose work was considered 'degenerate' by the Nazi party (although Kokoschka was not a member of the group). The OKB were no longer safe due to Czechoslovakia's imminent German occupation.
Fred and Diana Uhlman's house became the ARC's headquarters, from where Diana worked tirelessly as their secretary to secure the correct paperwork, accommodation and guarantors for the artists and their partners to come to the UK. This was achieved through the support and generosity of their neighbours. The ARC succeeded in gaining safe passage for more than 20 OKB artists into the UK and began to help other artists, including writers and musicians, escape the continent. In June 1940, when the British government began to intern German-speaking refugees as 'enemy aliens', the Artists Refugee Committee supported interned artists and helped to orchestrate their release.
Fred Uhlman was the subject of a major exhibition at Burgh House in 2018. The hardback accompanying book of the exhibition, edited by exhibition Curator Nicola Baird, can be purchased from us by emailing info@burghhouse.org.uk.

Image: Fred Uhlman (1901-85), Manor Lodge, Hampstead, ca. 1950, Oil on canvas, Collection of Burgh House