War Museum’s Portrait Wall gets makeover thanks to the Friends of the Canadian War Museum

April 11, 2012

Ottawa, Ontario, April 11, 2012—A generous donation from the Friends of the Canadian War Museum is enabling the Museum to showcase evocative and poignant works from its remarkable Beaverbrook Collection of War Art. The exhibition Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times, located on the Wall outside the Barney Danson Theatre, presents 10 very diverse portraits that movingly illustrate the human experience in wartime. Many of the portraits have never been displayed before.

“Canadian military history is more than just about soldiers; it’s also about ordinary people who must face difficult challenges and adapt to change when their lives are upended by conflict,” said James Whitham, Acting Director-General of the Canadian War Museum. “The works in Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times are direct, dramatic and speak broadly to the personal experience of war.” 

The exhibition illustrates everyday moments from the First World War to the current conflict in Afghanistan, evoking a range of eras and emotions. Manly MacDonald’s Apple Picking (1919) is a bucolic scene of female Canadian farm workers sorting apples during the First World War. In contrast, Jack Nichols’ Taking Survivors on Board (1945) is a dark image of a lifeboat on a turbulent sea, as Canadian sailors rescue German survivors from a Second World War naval battle near the French coast.

20th Century Cumulus (1994), by Paul Matthews, is an unsettling interpretation of families trying to flee the Rwandan Genocide, in which more than 800,000 people were massacred. In Stack (2004), contemporary Canadian artist Gertrude Kearns depicts four Canadian soldiers bristling with weapons and full protective gear as they train for service in Afghanistan. They are in a “stack” formation, which soldiers use when they fight in built-up and confined areas, to protect themselves from all directions.

In The Survivor (1945), Eric Aldwinckle imagines an air gunner standing solemnly amidst the twisted, fiery wreckage of a plane. Adam Sherriff Scott’s The Canadian Women’s Army Corps (1943), wholesome and reassuring in comparison, is a prim portrait of Ruby Farr, who worked in the Corps’ Montréal recruiting office. She stood for two to three hours at a time, three to four times a week, for nearly six weeks for this painting, which was used in a recruiting poster. 

The works are all from the Museum’s Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, which consists of more than 13,000 paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures. The Museum intends to showcase more of this exceptional collection by periodically rotating the works on display.

The changes to the wall—which also include a new, more flexible hanging system, more detailed captions and better lighting to make the works more accessible for visitors—would not have been possible without the generous support of the Friends of the Canadian War Museum (FCWM).

“The Friends of the Canadian War Museum are proud to support the display of these remarkable works of art on the Portrait Wall, where they can be appreciated by a wide audience,” said Douglas Rowland, President of FCWM. “The portraits provide another way to help Canadians understand their military history, a goal which the Friends share with the Canadian War Museum.”

About the Canadian War Museum

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.

About the Friends of the Canadian War Museum

The Friends of the Canadian War Museum is a charitable organization that contributes volunteer expertise, knowledge and financial assistance to promote and support the Museum, its programs and its activities. Find out more at www.friends-amis.org.


 Information (media):

Yasmine Mingay
Manager, Public Affairs
Canadian War Museum
Telephone: 819-776-8608

Avra Gibbs Lamey
Communications and Media Relations Officer
Canadian War Museum
Telephone: 819-776-8607

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