paper delivered at Canada and War
international conference, 5th–9th May 2000, University of
Canada, Culture and Commemorations
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
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
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.