Sunday 14 December 2014

Portfolio: Felicia Browne

Portfolio: Felicia Browne

“I am a member of the London Communists and can fight as well as any man.” It was with these words that Felicia Browne (1904-1936) demanded to be enlisted to fight on the Saragossa front after witnessing violence and the outbreak of war while in Spain in 1936 for the People’s Olympiad. The only British woman to play a combatant role in the conflict and, tragically, the first of more than 500 British volunteers to die in battle when she was killed by Fascists during a mission to blow up a rebel munitions train, Browne went on to become a potent symbol of the fight against Fascism, for which she had paid the ultimate sacrifice.

After her death, comrades found on her body a sketchbook full of drawings. These went on to be exhibited in London, raising funds for Spanish relief campaigns – thus Browne’s involvement in the battle against Fascism continued even after her death. Her efforts especially resonated with other women artists of her generation, encouraging them to stand up for what they believed in, create poster campaigns and independent artworks against Fascism, and even to enlist to fight on the ground in the years leading up to the Second World War.

Some of Browne’s sketches are on display in the exhibition Conscience and Conflict: British Artists and the Spanish Civil War, which runs at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester, until 15 February 2015.


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