Education, art and exile: cultural activists and exhibitions of refugee children's art in the UK during the Second World War

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During the 1930s and 1940s art increasingly came to be used as a therapeutic tool with children who were perceived as damaged by their experiences of war or displacement. This article explores two related exhibitions – Children’s Art from All Countries (1941) and The War as Seen by Children (1943) – which provided a platform for children’s impressions and experiences of war as seen through their drawings, whilst also raising money and awareness for refugee children’s causes. Although supported by an influential network of British educators and cultural figures, the exhibitions were conceived and organised by displaced German, Austrian, and Czech artists and cultural educators who were members of the Free German League of Culture in London during the Second World War. The exhibitions are considered as sites of educational and political interventions by adult refugees in the context of therapeutic interventions with refugee children in British educational settings. In so doing, this article argues that the exhibition organisers conceived of cultural and creative learning as a transformative vehicle for supporting and re-forming personal identities, and for the re-imagining of collective democratic futures.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)300-317
JournalPaedagogica Historica
Issue number3
Early online date5 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2017


  • child art , refugees , cultural learning , Second World War , art therapy