Robert Mitchell started his drawing recording the life in the POW camps, first in Singapore, then in Kobe, Japan, where he survived from 1942 to 1945. The sketch books provide a unique document of life in very difficult circumstances.
A recent academic study of Robert Mitchell's POW diaries examines their significance in the context of art created during World War II in Far Eastern POW camps. Read what the author says about Mitchell's works in News. On that page, you will also find out how Robert Mitchell's sketches have been essential for battlefield archeologists to establish the original layout of Adam Park.
Changi and Adam Park POW Camp, Singapore, 1942
Robert Mitchell said: "February 1942 at Changi barracks, and first started to do art. I enrolled in an art class under Murray Griffin, but we had no pencils or paper. We got clay from the bottom of a shell hole and modelled each other’s heads. Did drawings from life, traded paper; had camera as a kid; used to draw bombed houses etc. I used to draw huts. (The army) paid us ten cents a day. I used to get a dollar for one drawing.”
Robert Mitchell comments on the drawing in the centre: "My first 'from life' art work. (Actually, it was my second - in Changi POW camp in early 1942 an art class was set up under Murray Griffin and I did a clay head - Alan Scott was the model, and I was pleased with it."
"I did this drawing when POW in Adam Park camp - we were building a scenic road around and across the golf course and a Jap bridge led over to this shrine they built. I hated the Japs but thought this shrine beautiful. And the drawing is not bad for a beginner. My first glimpes of Jap art? It was blown up by the British after war ended.", Mitchell remarks on the far right drawing. Maru Yama POW Camp, Kobe, Japan, late 1942 - 1945
Robert Mitchell remembers: “Kobe, suburb Takatori Michi - I was called Takatori Mitchell - was one of the best camps in Japan we found out later. I got down to seven stone. Berri-Berri. Not high death rate, about 10%. Freezing, couldn’t get warm. No hot water. No wood. Japs had a rough time themselves. Shortly after went to work in Kobe near waterfront, Kawasaki shipyard, same as motorbikes, same badges Kawasaki; house established by water in Japanese characters. Americans fire-bombed Kobe, burn job. Fire-bombing end of Kobe. Shipyard out of action. By end of war Japs starving, couldn’t give food etc. to us. We were getting more than the Jap civilians.”
Copyright Estate of Robert Boyed Mitchell Created by Banziger Hulme Fine Art 2007