War Artists from the First World War: War Artists at Work - Page Banner

The war artists followed the Canadian army as it made its way from one battle to another. But they were often no more than onlookers. They lived far behind the lines and generally had a batman (aide), a car and a driver.

Several artists complained of the boredom and some drifted to Paris and other towns to find alternative subjects.

British Army & Navy Leave Club, Paris
By Caroline H. Armington

The British Army and Navy Leave Club is one of the clubs provided for the accommodation of British and Colonial soldiers on leave in Paris.



British Army and Navy Leave Club, Paris, France, 1917
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British Army and Navy Leave
Club Paris, France, 1917
Caroline Armington
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Reference Code: C 334-1-1-0-1
Archives of Ontario, I0003136

No. 8 Canadian General Hospital, Saint Cloud, France, 1918
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No. 8 Canadian General Hospital,
Saint Cloud France, 1918
Caroline Armington
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Reference Code: C 334-1-1-0-2
Archives of Ontario, I0003137

Canadian General Hospital
By Caroline H. Armington

A delightful street scene in St. Cloud by an artist well versed in the recording of Paris life.

With no set duties the war artist could sketch whatever was around them thereby creating the myriad of images of destroyed buildings and more specifically the ruins of cathedrals and churches with their wrecked steeples and towers.

This fascination with bombed out churches had much to do with the implied message that the German army had no qualms about destroying religious buildings and cultural property. In fact, to observers, it seemed that they were deliberately setting out to lay waste to these buildings.

Ablain St. Nazaire
By Lieut. C. H. Barraud

A very beautiful little plate treated in a very simple and masterful style. The gaunt but beautiful ruin of the Church is all that remains of the once populous village which surrounded it.

Church ruin, Ablain, St. Nazaire, 1916
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Church ruin, Ablain, St. Nazaire, 1916
Lieut. C. H. Barraud
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Reference Code: C 334-1-2-0-9
Archives of Ontario, I0003101

The other imagery that seemed to predominate the artists' creative thoughts was the landscape in front of them. Many images were sketched and painted that could almost be the English countryside with very little indication that a war was happening at all.

Ruins of the Monastery, Mont des Cats, October, 1917
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Ruins of the Monastery, Mont
des Cats October, 1917
Lieut. C. H. Barraud
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Reference Code: C 334-1-2-0-17
Archives of Ontario, I0003115

Soldiers on the road Albert, France, [ca. 1917]
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Soldiers on the road, Albert,
France, [ca. 1917]
Bertram Buchanan
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Reference Code: C 334-1-5-0-5
Archives of Ontario, I0003128

When they did go up to the front lines they often found that during the day there was little activity with only the occasional artillery shell-exploding overhead.

It was a different story once night fell with the activity along the front increasing as wire cutting parties moved out and supplies were moved up. Flares burst overhead and machine gun fire would increase as movement was detected in no-mans land.

The Night Patrol - Canadian M.L. boats entering Dover After Julius Olsson, A.R.A.
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The Night Patrol - Canadian M. L.
boats entering Dover, [ca. 1915]
After Julius Olsson, A.R.A.
Reference Code: C 334-2-0-0-7
Archives of Ontario, I0013654

The Western Front, back lines [ca. 1915]
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The Western front, back lines, [ca. 1915]
Alfred Bentley
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Reference Code: C 334-1-5-0-12
Archives of Ontario, I0003124

Approaching Poperinghe on the Ypres Road
By Lieut. C. H. Barraud

Poperinghe is the largest town in Belgium which was not occupied by the Germans. It was used as a base for operations in the Ypres Salient, and was intermittently under bombardment.

As one approached on the Ypres Road the distant view of the town and the avenue of trees combine to make a very happy composition.

Approaching Poperinghe, Belgium, 1917
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Approaching Poperinghe, Belgium, 1917
Lieut. C. H. Barraud
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Reference Code: C 334-1-2-0-8
Archives of Ontario, I0003108

Place St. Bertin, Poperinghe, October 18, 1917

Place St. Bertin, Poperinghe
By Lieut. C. H. Barraud

From a sketch made October 18th, 1917. Up to then this particular spot in Poperinghe had not suffered much from bombardment, this Church having only been hit by one shell.



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Place St. Bertin, Poperinghe, October 18, 1917
Lieut. C. H. Barraud
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Reference Code: C 334-1-2-0-5
Archives of Ontario, I0003107

The war artists also found that when something interesting was developing it was usually quickly over, on the move or concealed by darkness. And, when a major offensive did start, they were sent to the rear and their accommodation and cars requisitioned for war purposes.

To further frustrate them, they had to work quickly as their allotted time at the front was often no more than two months and could be as short as a two or three weeks.

Surrender of the German fleet, ca. 1917
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Surrender of the German fleet, 1918
Frank H. Mason
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Reference Code: C 334-1-5-0-14
Archives of Ontario, I0003117

Canadians entering Cambrai
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Canadians entering Cambrai, 1918
Lieut. Gerard de Witt
Reference Code: C 334-1-3-0-2
Archives of Ontario, I0013638

Canadians Entering Cambrai
By Lieut. Gerard de Witt

In this etching the artist depicts the entry of the Canadians to the town of Cambrai a few hours after its fall. The setting sun of an October evening and the dense clouds of smoke rising from the ruined portion of the town together produce a dramatic scenic effect never to be forgotten by those present on that memorable occasion, and the name "Cambrai" will live ever in the heart of every Canadian, the pivot of the great advance to Victory.

In August, 1918 the Battle of Amiens began followed by the start of what is known as Canada’s Hundred Days march.

By November 10, 1918 the Canadians had reached the outskirts of Mons where in 1914 the British and French had their first major encounter with the German army that was intent on marching on Paris.

At Mons on Nov 11, 1918 at 10.58am Private George Price of the 28th Battalion was killed by a sniper. Two minutes later at 11.00am the armistice came into effect. The war was over.



Canadians Entering Le Grand Place, Mons
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Canadians Entering Le Grand Place, Mons, 1918
Lieu. Gerard de Witt
Reference Code: C 334-1-3-0-1
Archives of Ontario, I0013635