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The McCord Museum
The Museum Team
Art Masterpieces on Display at the McCord Museum
exhibition produced by the Canadian War Museum and Canadian
Museum of Civilization includes works by some of Canada's
Monday, November 10, 2003 — An exhibition featuring
works by renowned Canadian artists and depicting the important
contribution made by Canadians in both World Wars, opens today
at the McCord Museum. Canvas of War — Masterpieces from
the Canadian War Museum is the most significant exhibition
ever mounted from the Canadian War Museum's extensive but
little-known war art collection. The exhibition will be on
display at the McCord Museum until January 25, 2004.
than sixty works are showcased in the landmark exhibition,
including paintings by Alex Colville, Charles Comfort, Molly
Lamb Bobak and four members of the Group of Seven. Many of the
paintings have not been exhibited in eighty years; and others
have never been publicly displayed. From an image of jubilant
Armistice Day celebrations to a stark depiction of a drowning
sailor, these compelling works are powerful testimony to the
Canadian war experience.
origins of Canada's war art collections can be traced to the
leadership of Lord Beaverbrook, a Canadian-born entrepreneur,
newspaper magnate and later British cabinet minister. During
the First World War he established the Canadian War Memorials
Fund, through which many prestigious artists depicted Canada's
contribution to the war effort overseas and at home. However,
his plan for a new building to ensure the permanent display of
nearly a thousand paintings never came to fruition, and the
collection was turned over to the National Gallery of Canada.
Canadian War Memorials Fund led to the founding of the
Canadian War Records program during the Second World War.
Thirty-one painters were hired to depict the activities of
Canada's army, navy and air force. They depicted wartime
Canada and the nation's military achievements in Italy and
1946, over five thousand works of art from this program were
deposited with the National Gallery of Canada, joining the
First World War paintings. In 1971, both war art collections
were transferred to the Canadian War Museum. Since then, only
a few works have been publicly displayed because the Canadian
War Museum has no permanent art gallery. The restoration and
exhibition of the works in Canvas of War constitute the
most resources devoted to Canada's war art collection since
the works were created.
Canadian War Museum's war art collection consists of over
13,000 works, including paintings, watercolours, drawings,
prints and sculptures. It encompasses both the Canadian War
Memorials of the First World War and the Canadian War Records
of the Second World War. The Canadian Armed Forces Civilian
Artists Program Collection, which focuses on peacekeeping by
Canadian Forces, completes the collection.
Canvas of War — Masterpieces from the Canadian War Museum will be on display at the McCord Museum (690, Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal) until January 25, 2004. The McCord is offering a full gamut of cultural activities and school programs on conjunction with Canvas of War.
Group of Seven
The Great War and the Canadian Landscape
Group of Seven is the best-known and most influential group of
Canadian artists to have worked in Canada in the twentieth
century. Original members F.H. Varley, A.Y. Jackson, Franklin
Carmichael, Lawren Harris, J.E.H. MacDonald, Arthur Lismer and
Frank H. (Franz) Johnston first exhibited as a Group in 1920.
LeMoine FitzGerald, Edwin Holgate and A.J. Casson later
augmented the Group's membership. The Group ceased exhibiting
First World War experiences of the original Group of Seven
influenced the development of their painting styles. While the
Group's post-war landscape art is very well known, their war
art is not. As a result, the extent to which much of their
painting after 1920, in particular their use of dead trees and
devastated ground, is indebted to the landscape of the Great
War is not widely appreciated. As more and more of their war
art becomes available for viewing, whether through exhibition
or, as is now possible, on the Internet, it will become clear
that, much like the impact of the conflict on the nation
itself, Canada's art, too, was forged in the crucible of war.
at War and as War Artists
the most part, women artists were hired to paint women's work,
but during the First World War, the work itself evolved as
thousands of women performed tasks usually dominated by men.
Mabel May's stunning portrayal of women workers filling shells
in a munitions factory illustrates the impact of the war on
gender in the workplace, as women assumed new responsibilities
in support of the war effort.
The extent to which women replaced the men who had gone
to fight is also illustrated by Manly MacDonald's lyrical
painting, Land Girls Hoeing.
women's services were created during the Second World War: the
Canadian Women's Army Corps, the Women's Royal Canadian Naval
Service and the Royal Canadian Air Force (Women's Division).
Service women and civilians worked in new occupations,
such as aircraft construction, and more traditional areas,
such as clerical work.
Lamb was the only woman appointed an official war artist. She
depicted the work of the Canadian Women's Army Corps overseas
in 1945. Commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada, Pegi Nicol
MacLeod portrayed women from all three women's services at
work in Ottawa in 1944 and 1945.
who were born or lived in Quebec are of critical importance to
the art on view in the exhibition Canvas
of War — Masterpieces from the Canadian War Museum.
Of the more than sixty works in the exhibition, twenty are by
artists closely associated with the province. Excluding
seventeen works by foreign artists, approximately 40 percent
of the remaining Canadian works are by Quebec painters. In
fact, this exhibition supports the thesis that Quebec's early
twentieth-century art community played a key role in the
development of Canadian art.
World War artists A.Y. Jackson, Maurice Cullen, Richard Jack,
Arthur Lismer and Mabel May established their careers in
Quebec. Although they were not all trained there, they went on
to influence generations of artists in the province and in
Canada. Second World War artists in the exhibition who lived
and worked extensively in Quebec include Harold Beament,
Albert Cloutier, Edwin Holgate, T. R. MacDonald, Pegi Nicol
Macleod, Jack Nichols, Will Ogilvie, Moe Reinblatt and
artist Alfred Bastien was attached to the 22nd Battalion, the
famed "Van Doos," during the First World War.
Of the three works by him in the exhibition, the most
celebrated is Over the Top, Neuville-Vitasse. Future Governor
General Georges Vanier maintained that he was the soldier
holding the pistol in the front of the painting. The "Van
Doos" also fought at the Battle of Courcelette (1916),
Ortona (1943), Campobasso (1944) and Carpiquet (1944). The Three Rivers Regiment was at Ortona (1944), the
Sherbrooke Fusiliers Regiment was at Falaise (1944) and
Carpiquet (1944), and La Régiment de la Chaudière fought at
Falaise (1944). These events are all depicted in the
paintings also show how people in Quebec contributed to both
war efforts. The women filling shells in Mabel May's
composition are from Montreal. Victoria Cross winner O'Kill
Learmonth, who also appears on the invitation card, was born
and lived in Quebec City, while Native Canadian Lloyd George
Moore was a member of the Three Rivers Regiment.
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Head of Communications
McCord Museum of Canadian History
Telephone : (514) 398-7100, ext. 251
This travelling exhibition is produced by the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of Civilization.