As an Official War Artist during the Second World War, Carel Weight travelled extensively in Europe, recording people and places in his work. From 1945 to 1946, the War Artists’ Advisory Committee (WAAC) sent him to Italy, Greece and Austria to record buildings and sites destroyed or damaged during the conflict. ‘Between Two Fires: A Dream (St Peter’s, Rome)’ is one of the paintings produced in this period.
Weight spent his first week as a War Artist sightseeing in Rome. ’Between Two Fires: A Dream (St Peter’s Rome)’ is a night time scene of a group of figures on a balcony overlooking St Peter’s Square. The two men in uniform in the centre are priests (their clerical dog collars just glimpsed at their necks). Flanked by two women on either side, one reads his guidebook, while the other casts a surreptitious glance at the woman to his right.
While the title of Weight’s painting has an air of romanticism, in fact, this scene had prosaic origins. After the War, when reflecting on whether the WAAC would approve his painting, Weight commented on ‘... a little picture which I don’t think will be exhibited ... of two padres sightseeing in Rome greatly distracted by the licentious Roman courtesans.’ To his surprise, the WAAC accepted his painting. Over a dozen works by Weight were allocated by the WAAC to the Government Art Collection in 1946.
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