Isobel Atterbury Heath (1908 - 1989)

Woman operating a lathe turning the fuse tips of munitions, c.1944

SKU: 7954
Oil on canvas
16 ¼ x 20 in. (41.2 x 51 cm)

Height – 41.2cm
Width – 51cm


Exhibited: WW2 – War Pictures by British Artists, Morley College London, 28 October -23 November 2016, cat 81. 

Literature: WW2 – War Pictures by British Artists, Edited by Sacha Llewellyn & Paul Liss, July 2016, cat 81, page 124.

This painting shows a woman operating a capstan lathe, turning the fuse tips of munitions. The material that is being turned is possibly
aluminium because the lathe is flooded with coolant and the swarf appears to be granular and very white. 

During WW2 Heath volunteered to work as an artist for Ministry of Information drawing and painting naval subjects and factory workers
in Howton’s munitions and camouflage factory at St. Ives and the Spitfire fighter station at Perranporth. She married an Italian prisoner of
war, Dr Marc Prati ‚Äì a political correspondent for the Italian newspaper La Stampa, who had been interned in Cornwall. 
By 1943 there were 7.25 million women engaged in war-related employment, the majority in agriculture, manufacturing and civil defence.
Although recording the role of women was one of the stated aims of WAAC, the scheme nevertheless favoured images of women
performing conventional roles – for instance the predominance of paintings of women as nurses in spite of the fact that in 1943 munitions
workers outnumbered nurses by 100 to 1. Like other female War Artists, Heath delighted in showing women at work in some of the
more unusual roles they performed during the war.
Liss Llewellyn are continually seeking to improve the quality of the information on their website. We actively undertake to post new and more accurate information on our stable of artists. We openly acknowledge the use of information from other sites including Wikipedia, and and other public domains. We are grateful for the use of this information and we openly invite any comments on how to improve the accuracy of what we have posted.


Isobel Atterbury Heath
Isobel Atterbury
1908 - 1989

Isobel Atterbury Heath studied at the AcadŽ mie Colarossi in Paris
and later Leonard Fuller’s St Ives School of Painting in the 1930s. 

During WWII, she was commissioned by the Ministry of
Information to paint workers in munitions factories and at a
camouflage factory in St Ives, which gave her the opportunity to
showcase how women were employed outside the perceived female
wartime roles of nurses and care-givers. 

She broke away from the STISA to help found the Penwith
Society of Arts in 1949, but resigned in 1950 and rejoined STISA
in 1957, continuing to exhibit with them for the rest of her life.
She also showed with the ROI, the RI and the RSA, and was
included in the 1955 centenary exhibition of the SWA in London.


Isobel Atterbury Heath (1908 - 1989)
Man at a lathe
Isobel Atterbury Heath (1908 - 1989)
A Royal Navy Mine Sweeper in Dry Dock, circa 1940
Isobel Atterbury Heath (1908 - 1989)
Woman operating a lathe turning the fuse tips of munitions, c.1944
Isobel Atterbury Heath (1908 - 1989)
Two women arc welding, ‘War 39-46’