Wartime India and Burma and the Japanese Invasion of China
Topolski travelled from the Middle East to visit wartime India and battlefronts in Burma and China.
In 1944, Topolski visited the Arakan front in Burma where the Allies were fighting the Japanese. In the Century he includes portraits of people he met on his journey — Lord Mountbatten, then Supreme Allied Commander in South-East Asia and Topolski’s friend the anthropologist Tom Harrisson, both of whom re-appear later in the Century. He also depicts the charismatic General Adrian Carton de Wiart, Churchill’s representative to the Chinese Nationalist government, and a Sikh soldier, representing one of the thousands who fought for the British during the Second World War.
Topolski then flew to China ‘over the Hump’ — the name given by Allied pilots to the hazardous flight over the eastern end of the Himalayas to reach China. He was fascinated by China and its people and in the Century contrasted Chinese peasants working peacefully in the fields with a symbolic depiction of the brutal Japanese invasion of the country.
Following on from this, Topolski depicts his travels around wartime India, the formal figures of British colonial leaders and Indian maharajahs contrasted with Allied soldiers on leave in the bars and brothels of Calcutta.