150+ Canadians Day 76: War Artists

Image: Molly Bobak, first Canadian woman artist to be sent overseas to document Canada’s war effort during WWII, and in particular, the work of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps. (Library & Archives Canada)

War Artists and Photographers contribute to peace through their creation of evocative images which challenge our thinking about war. #Canada150

Serving in both official and civilian capacities, Canadians have generated important visual records of Canadian involvement in war. Using painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, digital installations, film, poetry, choreography, music and more, they have created profound renderings of war.

Frederick Varley depicts the Battle of Vimy Ridge as a void wasteland. (Art History Archive)

The many works produced by both visual artists and photographers record several aspects of war, including the individual’s experience of war, whether allied or enemy, service or civilian, military or political, social or cultural. The truths revealed by these artists and their work embrace the causes, course and consequences of conflict and though often seen as an essentially educational tool, now is appreciated more broadly as a culturally independent act of witness to such tragic events.

War artists included a select group who were employed on contract, or commissioned to produce specific works during the First World War, the Second World War and select military actions in the post-war period. This group includes members of the still operational Canadian Forces Artist Program.

“What each of you achieved on the artist’s canvas is more profound and more powerful than any words can express.” Hon. Greg Thompson, Minister of Veterans Affairs

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