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Conference Papers
Conference papers

Paul Gough
Invited paper delivered at Canada and War international conference, 5th–9th May 2000, University of Ottawa, Canada

Canada, Culture and Commemorations

Canada has commemorated its part in the conflict of the 20th century by commissioning artworks, by building and siting monuments and memorials, and by preserving tracts of battlefields for future contemplation. Canadian entrepreneurship during the Great War 1914-1918 established a system for commissioning war art that was adopted throughout the Empire and became the template for similar schemes in the Second World War.

This paper will explore briefly the terms of official Canadian policy regarding the commemorative arts, looking at the vision of such individuals as Max Aitken (later Lord Beaverbrook), but the paper will seek to develop a concept which connects official war art from the 1914 - 1918 period to post-war sites of remembrance and to more recent commemorative gardens and memorial sites.

Expressed simply, the concept explores how several different styles of representation were uniquely blended in various forms of Canadian artworks and monuments. Canadian artists, sculptors, memorial designers fused a figurative, realistic way of describing the human figure with a more abstract language based on hard edges and geometric outlines.

This fusion of pictorial languages can be traced in Canadian artworks, commissioned work and memorials. Looking briefly at art from both wars, the paper will also examine a range of memorial examples including the Vimy Memorial, the Canadian Garden at Le Memorial Caen, the fountain at Canada Gates, Green Park in London, and the United Nations Monument in Ottawa.

The paper will argue that this fusion of realism and geometry (of traditional values and early modernism) constitutes a unique contribution to the iconography of conflict.