and Canada
in the
Second World War
| Acronyms & abbreviations | About Art and War |

A shared experience

The Hitler line - Charles Comfort, Canadian War Museum 19710261-2203 The experiences of Australia, Canada and Britain during the Second World War were shared ones. These countries were, after all, allies fighting a common enemy; they were also nations profoundly and historically linked politically, economically and socially; and, on notable occasions, they were involved in joint military operations. Geography, politics and military events created and shaped threats which demanded responses that were unique to each country. However, the common ground of Art and War - Australia, Britain and Canada in the Second World War is the impact the war had on individual lives: the men and women that feature in these works are shown waiting, preparing, fighting, suffering, celebrating.

The paintings and sculptures in Art and War - Australia, Britain and Canada in the Second World War are grouped into general themes that reflect these elements, rather than specific events.

Ruby Loftus screwing a breech ring - Laura Knight, Imperial War Museum, LD_2850
  • Battle is the obvious starting point and reflects heroism and excitement alongside the inevitable destruction and loss;

  • Service involved waiting and preparing no less - and probably more - than actual fighting.

  • Work acknowledges the way in which society was re-ordered, both through the effects of new technology and the need to replace workers and increase output.

  • Both Captivity and Casualties attempt to measure and reflect the constraints and the demands placed on people, and, ultimately, the price they had to pay, both at the time and then through the slow years of healing.

  • Finally, Home and Leisure look at a broad range of experiences: the means of escape, the fleeting pleasures, living with loss, the celebration of peace, and, eventually, the return home.

Roberts Hospital, Changi - Murray Griffin, Australian War Memorial ART24491 This is the first exhibition of its kind to explore how Australia, Britain and Canada lived through and recorded the greatest conflict in human history. The works on display highlight notable differences in outlook and expectation, both nationally and individually. Some images do not sit comfortably together; others retain an almost ineffable power to move and disturb. All of them are able to take us back into lives and experiences now distant from our own, but arising out of a time that still affects us, and indeed shapes the way we are.

Art and War - Australia, Britain and Canada in the Second World War consists of 96 works of art from the collections of the Canadian War Museum, the Australian War Memorial, and the Imperial War Museum.

The presentation of this exhibition at the Canadian War Museum was made possible by a generous donation from the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation.

Australian War Memorial Canadian War Museum Imperial War Museum