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Mooragh Camp, Ramsey Bay by Hugo Dachinger

Date made: 1940

Artist: Dachinger, Hugo

Description: 'Mooragh Camp, Ramsey Bay' shows the view looking directly out to sea from the internment camp, through the barbed wire. Dachinger has captured the dramatic colours of the sky and the dark brooding storm clouds with the bright sunrise breaking through.

The historical context of the painting – a wartime internment camp with the ever present threat of a German invasion – may influence its meaning. It could represent the artist’s hopes and fears about the future and who would eventually win the war. Does the sunrise symbolise a new day and a brighter future? Does the red sky predict a more pessimistic calm before the storm, summarised in the well-known phrase, ‘red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning.’ Or is it just what it appears to be, the record of a spectacular sunrise that Dachinger happened to witness whilst interned in Ramsey?

Ambivalence surrounds the vessels in Ramsey Bay. Are they Manx fishing boats or Royal Naval ships? Are they sheltering from an approaching storm or from German U-boat patrols in the Irish Sea?

The Mooragh Internment Camp was a civilian camp created in Ramsey by the requisitioning of hotels along the promenade by Mooragh Park. It was the first camp to be opened on the island following the outbreak of the Second World War and was in operation from 27 May 1940 until 2 August 1945. During that period it housed German, Austrian, Finnish and Italian internees.

Hugo Dachinger studied graphic art in Leipzig, Germany from 1929, financing his studies by working as a window dresser. In 1932 he returned to Vienna to work for Saville & Co., an English company, as a graphic designer. Dachinger’s position in Austria as a socialist, a Jew and an artist became increasingly difficult during the 1930s. Following the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany in 1938 when on a business trip to Leipzig, he was rendered unable to return to Vienna and so with the assistance of his firm went to Britain.

Dachinger was arrested in June 1940 under Churchill’s policy of the mass internment of enemy aliens. He was interned first in Kempton Park transit camp, then Huyton Camp, Liverpool and finally in Mooragh Camp, Isle of Man. Although only interned for seven months, Dachinger produced a vast quantity of artwork, often painted on newspaper.

Whilst in Mooragh Camp and following his release in January 1941, Dachinger staged exhibitions of his work entitled ‘Art behind barbed wire’. He married in the 1940s and resumed his career as a graphic and commercial artist and designer in London.

Hugo Dachinger was generally known by his nickname ‘Puck’ Dachinger and this may be said to reflect both his ever youthful spirit and personality and the style of his artwork.

Dachinger’s internment art includes informal domestic views of camp life, portraits of fellow internees and satirical cartoons. Many of the works were painted on sheets of newspaper using children’s palette paints. When supplies were short Dachinger claims he painted with toothpaste and even gravy browning.

Following retirement as a commercial artist and designer, Dachinger continued to produce vast quantities of sketches of scenes around Hampstead. He was a familiar sight in local cafes where he would be seen, often wearing his traditional Austrian jacket, sketching people at the next table.

Measurements: artwork: 40.5 cm x 54 cm

Materials: Watercolour on paper

Object name: painting

Collection: Art Collection

ID number: 2002-0142



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