Iconic Menin Gate Lions, painting arrive from Australia for upcoming exhibition Fighting in Flanders

October 15, 2014

Ottawa, Ontario, October 14, 2014 — The Canadian War Museum today welcomed the Menin Gate Lions and William Frederick Longstaff’s 1927 painting Menin Gate at Midnight (Ghosts of Menin Gate). These imposing symbols of the First World War will be highlights of the upcoming exhibition Fighting in Flanders – Gas. Mud. Memory., opening on November 7. Tony Glen, Director of Collections at the Canadian War Museum, was joined by Her Excellency Ms. Louise Hand, Australian High Commissioner to Canada, for the unveiling of the limestone lions and the installation of the painting.

These historical items are on loan for the duration of the exhibition from the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, with the assistance of the Royal Australian Air Force. 

“The Menin Gate Lions and Longstaff’s painting of the Menin Gate Memorial in Belgium represent resilience, remembrance and the enduring bond between nations, like Canada and Australia, that stood together in Flanders,” said James Whitham, Director General of the Canadian War Museum. “We are grateful to the Australian War Memorial and to the people of Australia for so generously sharing their national treasures with Canadians.”

The lions once flanked the Menin Gate in Ypres, through which thousands of Allied soldiers passed on their way to and from the battlefields of northwestern Belgium. Likely carved in the 17th century, they were badly damaged by artillery fire, recovered from the rubble after the war and donated to the Australian War Memorial in 1936, as a token of friendship.

The Menin Gate — so named because the road leads to the city of Menen (Menin in English and French) — was chosen as the site for a memorial to soldiers of the British Empire who were killed near Ypres, but whose bodies were either never found or never identified. The Menin Gate Memorial, dedicated in 1927, is inscribed with the names of approximately 55,000 Allied soldiers, including almost 7,000 Canadians and 6,000 Australians.

Menin Gate at Midnight depicts an army of ghostly soldiers marching across a field in front of the Memorial, which Longstaff revisited at night after its unveiling on July 24, 1927. The Australian war artist said he had a vision of spirits of the dead rising out of the ground around him.

“This painting is rightly loved by Australians and we know Canadians will be equally moved by the ghostly image” said High Commissioner Hand. “I am glad that we have the opportunity to share it. The lions are grand and monumental, perfect partners for the painting.”

Fighting in Flanders – Gas. Mud. Memory. will be on display at the Canadian War Museum from November 7, 2014 to April 26, 2015. The exhibition was developed by the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, in partnership with the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917, Belgium, and with the generous support of the E.W. Bickle Foundation. 

The Canadian War Museum is Canada’s national museum of military history. Its mission is to promote public understanding of Canada’s military history in its personal, national, and international dimensions.


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Yasmine Mingay
Director,   Public Affairs
Canadian War Museum
Telephone: 819-776-8608
Avra Gibbs Lamey
Senior Communications and Media Relations Officer, Canadian War Museum
Telephone: 819-776-8607

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