Art and Empire - Wembley, 1924

Tom August explores the imperial assumptions - and the hints of independence from Britannia - to be found in the paintings and artists on show in the Palace of Arts at the British Empire Exhibition.

On St. George's Day, April 23rd, 1924, the British Empire came to Wembley in a colourful display of imperial solidarity. Unlike the earlier exhibitions of 1886 and 1899 or the colonial participations at the Jubilee celebrations of 1887 and 1897, the Wembley extravaganza was first and foremost a stocktaking of imperial resources, the purpose being to increase public awareness about colonial production and thereby maximize intra-imperial trade. Though previous exhibitions had presented the products of a particular territory, Wembley was, as the billboards advertised, 'the empire in microcosm'. Never before had the British public been treated to such a comprehensive survey of the peoples, cultures and economies that comprised the empire.

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