The French city of Arras is hosting an exhibition of Canadian First World War art as part of commemorations marking the Battle of Arras Centenary.
'Witness - Fields of Battle Through Canadian Eyes' features more than 50 works, not only by leading artists, but also soldiers who sent home poignant personal pictures.
The touring exhibition, at the Musée des beaux-arts in Arras, was created by the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, and originally presented in 2014 as 'Witness – Canadian Art of the First World War'.
Having crossed the Atlantic, it's been renamed and enhanced with additional content related to Arras and French battlefields of the Great War, including historical photographs.
"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."
'Mud Road to Passchendaele', Douglas Culham, around 1917 (Image: Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, Canadian War Museum 19890222-001)
Divided into five sections, the exhibition explores how soldiers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force depicted their WW1 experiences in France and Belgium.
The Canadian War Museum describes it as 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 per cent 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.
"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."
All the works are drawn from the Canadian 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 Canadian capture of Vimy Ridge was a significant success for the Allies at the start of a renewed offensive which subsequently failed to break the deadlock on the Western Front.
Witness – Fields of Battle Through Canadian Eyes is at the Musée des beaux-arts, Arras until 11 June 2017. The exhibition will then return home to resume its Canadian tour, with stops in Sarnia and Markham, Ontario, and in Calgary, Alberta.
Source: Canadian War Museum, Ottawa
Images: 'Houses in the Place Hotel de Ville', Arras, Gyrth Russell (Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, Canadian War Museum 19710261-0621)
'Mud Road to Passchendaele', Douglas Culham, around 1917 (Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, Canadian War Museum 19890222-001)
Posted by: CN Editorial Team