A Brief Introduction to… the Artists International Association (AIA)

AIA Logo, featured in Morris and Radford, AIA: The Story of the Artists International Association, p. 10.

Founded in London in 1933 by a group of artists associated with the Communist Party of Great Britain, the AIA stood for the ‘Unity of artists against Fascism and War and the suppression of culture.’ In their early years, they designed posters, banners and murals to fight Fascism and to raise funds for those affected by the Spanish Civil War. From the 1930s to the 1950s, they organised a series of large-scale exhibitions in aid of leftwing political causes. Although the organisation engaged in politics with a capital P, it sought to avoid artistic politics. It gave a platform to artists regardless of their chosen aesthetic style, whether realist, abstract or surrealist. The AIA strove to extend public access to the arts: it organised travelling exhibitions and launched a cheap ‘Everyman Prints’ series; during the war, members painted murals in hostels, factories and restaurants. Following WWII, it pioneered the ‘Sculpture in the Home’ exhibitions, later organised by the Arts Council, and organised a series of events in aid of peace. In 1953, following internal disagreements about the Soviet Union, the AIA dropped its political clause, essentially turning it into an artists-run exhibiting society until it folded in 1971.

Further reading

5 thoughts on “A Brief Introduction to… the Artists International Association (AIA)”

  1. Diana Uhlman was the administrator of the AIA from 1947-1957 where she was the Hon. Secretary (unpaid post).
    She oversaw the Pictures for Schools scheme, the introduction of the picture lending library, the commissioning
    of six lithographs by members to coincide with the Festival of Britain in 1951which were aimed at schools. She also
    arranged exhibitions of members’ work at London Airport.


    1. Hi Caroline, thanks so much for your comment. Diana Uhlman is fascinating – by coincidence, I have been reading about her and the AIA just this past week! I’d love to get in touch if you have any more information about her as she would make a great subject for one of my ‘Advocates for the Arts’ profiles. The mention of London Airport is so intriguing! My email is e.west[at]bham.ac.uk – just replace the [at] with @.


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