Womens Canteen at Phoenix Works, Bradford

'Women's Canteen at Phoenix Works, Bradford' 1918 by Flora Lion, who was commissioned to paint factory scenes of the home front during World War 1. 

The narrative of this painting very appealing. Better known for her portraits of the distinguished and celebrated of the day, in this painting Lion has created an incredible snapshot of a very ordinary moment in a working day at a munitions factory. 

Immediately one gets a sense of how weary those women are with the manual work they've been allowed to take a break from. Look at the resigned waiting captured on the face of the girl holding her enamel tea mug. Is she taking a moment to think about a brother, her Father or maybe a sweetheart fighting in the war whilst she waits? Or is she simply wondering what's on the lunchtime menu?
One's eyes are also drawn to those dainty heeled boots which the woman in khaki on the right of the painting leaning against the counter, is wearing. It instantly feminises the practicality of the overalls being worn. We can ponder what her duties are that require her to wear trousers when most are in smocks?  
This painting is currently in the posession of the Imperial Wat Museum London


Fanny Pinkleton said…
It would be well worth a trip to the Imperial War Museum to see this up close.
An interesting painting, as its a side to the munitions girls that you don't normally find. I can only recall seeing those photos of them assembling the munitions casings etc. I think I remember reading somewhere that their hair and skin turned yellow from the chemicals they had to use.

By the way, there's a blog award for you waiting back at VK headquarters!
Anonymous said…
Hi, just found your blog via the vintage knitter. An interesting painting, one of those you feel you want to look at for a long time to see all the details.
Murgatroyd said…
Yes, I believe that in some cases hair & skin did turn yellow. There's a place on the edge of Hereford where the remains of a munitions factory still stand. Near by they've put up a memorial to all of the women who worked there (& those who lost their lives there too).
Thank you so much for the award VK!
And welcome to Fanny & Shirl too!