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.
- Lynda Morris and Robert Radford, AIA: The Story of the Artists International Association, 1933-1953 (Oxford: Modern Art Oxford, 1983)
- Robert Radford, Art for a Purpose. The Artist’s International Association 1933-1953, (Winchester: Winchester School of Art Press, 1987)
- Jody Patterson, ‘Marx on the Wall: Muralism and Anglo-American Exchange During the 1930s’, Tate Papers, 27 (Spring 2017)
- The Papers of the Artists International Association, Tate Gallery and Archive (Archives Hub)