Rowe was a major artist of the 1930s, his work reflected his concern to represent industry and working life. The People’s History Museum holds the major part of Cliff Rowe’s work. The National Railway Museum, York, the Science Museum, London, and the Tate Gallery, London, hold others.
Born in Wimbledon, Rowe studied at Wimbledon School of Art and the Royal College of Art. By 1931, he was making designs for Communist Party publications. Following eighteen months of travel and design work in the Soviet Union, Rowe returned to England and in 1934 helped establish the Artists’ International Association, which eventually grew to about 900 strong. Its work included helping refugees from Hitler’s Germany and providing medical aid to the British International Brigade during the Spanish Civil War.
From 1945, Rowe’s work included publicity commissions from the Attlee Labour government and trade unions, designs for the 1951 Festival of Britain, commercial mural design, exhibition design and text book illustration.
The major part of Rowe’s work however consists of large oil paintings, and the Tolpuddle Martyrs and General Strike murals commissioned by the Electrical Trades Union, then led by Communists.
Large scale and powerful, his oils are icons to the worker and stress the social value of labour, whilst his murals depict key struggles in the history of organized labour.
Rowe’s painting of the General Strike is below
c estate of Cliff Rowe
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