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War Artists from the First World War: The Burlington House Exhibit - Page Banner
The War in the Air
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The War In the Air, 1917
After C. R. W. Nevinson
Reference Code: C 334-2-0-0-9
Archives of Ontario, I0013656

The Canadian War Memorials Fund fonds (C 334) held by the Archives of Ontario consists of an incomplete set of prints (one of each of a limited number printed) that were in the Canadian War Memorials Exhibition held on the 4th of January at Burlington House, Piccadilly, London in 1919.

The prints were created as part of a fund-raising effort on behalf of the CWMF and a limited edition of 100 proofs were for sale to visitors viewing the exhibition or could be purchased directly from the CWRO.

In addition to the etchings a number of the large paintings on view at the exhibition had been reproduced in sheet form and 300 signed artists proofs of each painting were on sale. Nine of these images are also included in this virtual exhibit.

The print to the right, War in the Air by C. R. W. Nevinson, portrays an aerial confrontation involving one of Canada’s most famous aviation heroes, Billy Bishop. The original is now in the Canadian War Museum.

A souvenir catalogue was produced featuring the work that was for sale. The artworks in question were etchings by Lieutenants Cyril H. Barraud, Gerard de Witt and Gyrth Russell as well as by the artist Caroline H. Armington.

View of the town of Meteren, south of Ypres, from the Canadian Bombing School, February, 1916
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View of the town of Meteren, south of Ypres,
from the Canadian Bombing School
February, 1916
Lieut. C. H. Barraud
Reference Code: C 334-1-2-0-13
Archives of Ontario, I0003112

Lieutenant de Witt (6th Canadian Siege Battery) was one of the official war artists attached to the Canadian War Records Office as were Lieutenants Barraud and Russell; the artist Caroline Armington was born in Brampton, Ontario and had been resident in Paris since 1900 remaining in France until her death in 1939.

By Lieut. C. H. Barraud

A delightful study of the picturesque village of Meteren (South of Ypres) from sketches made looking from the Canadian Bombing School. February, 1916.

Mine Crater on the Road to Mons
By Lieut. Gerard de Witt

The subject of this etching, familiar to every soldier who took part in the advance through the various towns on the way to Mons, is essentially typical. A huge crater extending almost the whole width of the narrow French street is depicted, showing also the partial ruins of the tall houses on either side. In this, as in many other cases, barely sufficient space remains between the walls of the buildings and the crumbing edge of the crater for the heavy guns to pass by. The artist has treated the subject in a most masterly manner.

Mine crater on the road to Mons(?)
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Mine crater on the road to Mons, [ca. 1918]
Gerard de Witt
Reference Code: C 334-1-3-0-4
Archives of Ontario, I0013636

Also included in this exhibit are artworks by the Canadian artists Dorothy Stevens, C. W. Jefferys and others.

These particular images were not included in the 1919 souvenir package but were most probably created for the collection of the CWMF.

The Burlington House exhibit was by all accounts a great success. The major attraction of the exhibition was Augustus John’s ten-by-forty foot charcoal drawing “The Canadians Opposite Lens”. To observers at the exhibition, this massive drawing captured everything that could be imagined about war. Along with canvases, watercolours and sculpture were dry-points, etchings and lithographs.

Munitions Heavy Shells
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Munitions Heavy Shells, 1919
Dorothy Stevens
Reference Code: C 334-1-5-0-18
Archives of Ontario, I0013281

The pre-exhibition publicity provided by the newspapers of Beaverbrook and the other press owners ensured that the exhibition was both a financial and critical success.

The Ramparts, Ypres - 1916
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The Ramparts, Ypres (used as Canadian
brigade headquarters), July, 1916
Lieut. C. H. Barraud
Reference Code: C 334-1-2-0-1
Archives of Ontario, I0003103

Returned soldiers were eager to show their families and friends where they had served and with the relaxation of censorship in 1919, the public could also see, through the images displayed, scenes of war that had long been denied them.

The Ramparts, Ypres
By Lieut. C. H. Barraud

Situated about 300 yards from the Lille Gate, these Ramparts comprise great chambers about 30 feet wide and 16 feet high running through the thickness of the brick-revetted earthworks forming the ancient walls of Ypres. At this point the Ramparts are 150 feet wide. Outside, they present a wall solidly built of brick, rising from the moat to the height of 30 feet.

The Ramparts of Ypres have figured largely in recent Canadian history, and Mr. Barraud's fine etching records the entrance to one of the chambers in the Ramparts used as Brigade Headquarters.

This sketch was made in July 1916.

It should be noted that the number of British war artists whose work was displayed at the Burlington House exhibition far outnumbered the number of Canadian artists. But there is no doubt that the work of the Canadian artists such as Jackson with 35 oil panels and Varley's large canvases were well received and their standing as artists increased both within Britain and in Canada as a result of their efforts.

The exhibition consisting of art works solely representing action at the front was moved to New York where once again it was a success with large numbers coming to the Anderson Galleries to view the drawings, paintings and sculptures, even though none of the images reflected American involvement in the war.

From New York it moved to Toronto and in August 1919 was installed in an enlarged Canadian National Exhibition’s Fine Art Gallery. This was to be the first opportunity for the Canadian public to see the art that had been talked about and judge it for themselves.

The Toronto exhibition was a huge success with over 100,000 Canadians paying to enter the CNE to see the show.

The Cloth Hall Ypres after J. Kerr Lawson
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The Cloth Hall Ypres, [ca. 1918] (detail)
After J. Kerr Lawson
Reference Code: C 334-2-0-0-2
Archives of Ontario, I0013649

After Toronto the exhibition was moved to Montreal and from there to relative obscurity languishing in various storage vaults until finally arriving at the National War Museum in Ottawa. Another exhibition featuring work by 43 artists and concentrating on activities at the home front was also circulating and opened at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario) in Grange Park.

Wherever it travelled, the most popular image in the 1919 exhibition was John Byam Lister Shaw’s “The Flag”. Byam Shaw had chosen to represent the sacrifice of the Canadian soldier by placing the body draped with the Canadian red ensign between the paws of the British lion and surrounded by those for whom the sacrifice had been made.

Particularly poignant is the fact that two of the models in the painting were to die in World War II and that they were both Byam Shaw’s sons.

The Flag
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The Flag, [ca. 1918] (detail)
After Byam Shaw
Reference Code: C 334-2-0-0-8
Archives of Ontario, I0013655

The Canadian War Museum in Ottawa has an extensive collection of the original works created for the Canadian War Memorial Fund project. They also hold several complete sets of souvenir prints. In addition, Art at the Service of War by Maria Tippett contains a good history of the program.