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Untitled portrait painted at Mooragh Internment Camp by Hugo Dachinger

Date made: 1940

Artist: Dachinger, Hugo

Description: Untitled portrait painted by artist Hugo Dachinger whilst interned at Mooragh Internment Camp in Ramsey, 1940. Portrait showing detail of a head of a man with a beard and short dark hair. Signed bottom right. Possibly a fellow internee.

Early in the Second World War there were fears that ‘fifth columnists’ (spies) had been planted by the Germans amongst the refugees who had fled to Britain from Nazi-occupied Europe. As a result, a policy of mass civilian internment began in 1940 with men and women being interned on the Isle of Man.

Mooragh Internment Camp was a civilian internment 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 opening on 27 May 1940. It closed on 2 August 1945. During that period it was used to house 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: overall: 25 x 18.5 cm

Materials: Watercolour & pencil on paper

Object name: drawing

Collection: Art Collection

ID number: 2002-0118



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