Popular Canadian War Museum art exhibition goes to France for Vimy commemoration

March 9, 2017


For immediate release

Ottawa, Ontario, March 9, 2017 — In April 1917, Canadians fought a pitched battle for the area near Arras, France, ultimately taking Vimy Ridge on April 12. One hundred years later, the battlefield comes back to life in the outstanding art exhibition, Witness – Fields of Battle Through Canadian Eyes, on view at the Musée des beaux-arts in Arras, France from March 18 to June 11.

The exhibition, originally presented at the Canadian War Museum as Witness – Canadian Art of the First World War in 2014, features more than 50 works of art, including masterpieces by artists such as A.Y. Jackson and Frederick Varley, who later became members of the Group of Seven. It also includes poignant personal works made by soldiers for their families back home. This new version of the exhibition, made possible through the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation and TD Bank Group, has been enhanced with additional content related to Arras and French battlefields of the First World War.

“To a certain extent, this is a homecoming for many of these works of art,” says Mark O’Neill, President and CEO of the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of History. “Canadians fought fiercely in and around Arras, the region of the iconic battle for Vimy Ridge, and often recorded their impressions in evocative sketches and drawings. To these were added larges canvases completed by artists hired by the Canadian War Memorial Fund. The Canadian War Museum is very pleased to be partnering with the Musée des beaux-arts d’Arras and the City of Arras to bring one of Canada’s cultural contributions to this year’s commemoration of Vimy.”

The works in Witness – Fields of Battle Through Canadian Eyes are all drawn from the War Museum’s Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, which contains some 2,500 paintings, drawings, prints and posters from the First World War, in addition to more than 14,000 works of art covering various other conflicts. The exhibition is further enhanced by a selection of historical photographs and other supporting material. Divided into five sections, Witness explores how members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force depicted their First World War experiences, resulting in a highly personal record of shattered landscapes, devastated towns and villages, equipment ranging from tanks and aircraft to pack animals, and the soldiers themselves.

“The history of Arras is vitally linked to the taking of Vimy Ridge by Canadian soldiers on April 9, 1917,” notes Frédéric Leturque, Mayor of Arras. “The battle effectively ended the bombardment of Arras — by then already 85% destroyed — thus preserving a number of architectural jewels, which provided the basis of our reconstruction. It is fascinating to view this story through the lens of art. The Canadian War Museum, which I have twice visited, abounds in important records of this aspect of conflict. While in Ottawa, I also discovered paintings of the destroyed town, which we in Arras only possess in a few sketches and photographs from the period. I am thus very happy to see this partnership come to fruition, and to welcome Witness to Arras. It gives us another opportunity to bring the histories of Arras and Canada together, and to explore the memories enshrined in art from across the Atlantic.”

Witness – Fields of Battle Through Canadian Eyes is a travelling exhibition developed by the Canadian War Museum, in partnership with the Musée des beaux-arts in Arras and the City of Arras, France, where it will be on display from March 18 to June 11, 2017.

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. Work of the Canadian War Museum is made possible in part through financial support of the Government of Canada.

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You are cordially invited to the media preview of
Witness – Fields of Battle Through Canadian Eyes
Friday, March 17 at 3 p.m.
Musée des beaux-arts d’Arras
Abbaye Saint-Vaast
22, rue Paul-Doumer
Arras, France

Please confirm your presence by March 14.
c-tournay@ville-arras.fr | 06 42 21 36 86

You are equally invited to attend the exhibition’s vernissage on Friday, March 17 at 6:30 p.m.

If you are not able to attend to the event on March 17, please contact Yasmine Mingay, and we can arrange another date for your visit.

Media contacts at the Canadian War Museum:
Yasmine Mingay
Director, Public Affairs
Canadian War Museum
Telephone: 819-776-8608
Email: yasmine.mingay@warmuseum.ca

Media contacts for the Musée des beaux-arts d’Arras:
Christophe Tournay
Communications Manager
City of Arras
Email: c-tournay@ville-arras.fr

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