November 20, 2004
Art or people?

Here's a fun article:

At the height of the Cold War, with nuclear holocaust looming, British civil servants were engaged in a high-minded argument as to whether it was better to save priceless works of art or human lives.

The debate within Whitehall about how, or even whether, to evacuate masterpieces such as Constable's Haywain, or the Wilton Diptych, took so long that when disaster was truly imminent, no plans were in place, documents recently released at the National Archives reveal.

The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 came and went while the mandarins tried to fine-tune the number of pantechnicons they would need to transfer treasures from the National Gallery and the British Museum to specially prepared quarries in Wiltshire and north Wales.

I seem to recall someone having decked out Constable's Haywain with a mushroom cloud in the background. But googling by me was unsuccessful, so either it's not on the WWW, or I'm a crap googler which is a more likely explanation. Can anyone else do better?

Think what Constable would have done with a nuclear mushroom cloud, had he ever witnessed one.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:53 PM
Category: HistoryPainting