WAR ART COMES HOME
Charles Comfort’s Dead German Soldier on the Hitler Line is one of 258 works by 30 official war artists to appear in the Gallery’s 1945 Exhibition of Canadian War Art. Other future stars appearing in this show: Alex Colville, Jack Nichols, Lawren Harris, Pegi Nicol McLeod and Molly Lamb.
The Gallery establishes the Canadian War Records program.
Despite the important role that paintings and sketches could play in recording military events, there had been no action in an official capacity for recordings by artists of war activities during the first years of the war. The Gallery’s Trustees put forward the view that work must be undertaken if Canada’s military story was to be authentic or have a full effect on morale in Canada or with the forces overseas.
In January, Cabinet approves the Canadian War Records program, which creates two committees to control the project, one in Canada and the other overseas in London. The Canadian Committee, with Harry Orr McCurry, Director of the Gallery, as the chairman, is responsible for finding artists whose work would be acceptable from an aesthetic point of view, for controlling their activities in Canada and for the provision of artists’ materials from public funds. The Overseas Committee is responsible for the activities of artists in the theatres of operations and to assemble and inventory their work as it is finished.
The Exhibition of Canadian War Art opens at the National Gallery of Canada, featuring 258 works created during the Second World War by 30 of Canada’s official war artists.
Although “thousands of Englishmen and Italians had seen the Canadian work,” reports the Globe & Mail, on February 15, “there had been no opportunity for the people at home to see what heritage was being built for them in visual record of their nation’s place in the world conflict.”
Robert H. Hubbard (1916–1989)
An art historian and expert in French-Canadian sculpture, Robert Hubbard was appointed as the first Curator of Canadian Art at the Gallery in 1947. By 1954 he’d risen to Chief Curator, a position he held until 1978, a period that encompassed the Lorne Building’s inauguration, and a new push to acquire contemporary art. As the first professionally trained curator, he focuses on the purchase of earlier Canadian works such as William Berczy’s Thayendanegea (Joseph Brant).
In the first post-war decade, the Gallery’s collection grows at an exceptional rate. A massive War Art collection is also deposited with the Gallery.
Dr. James MacCallum bequeaths 134 Canadian works, most of them by the Group of Seven and Tom Thomson.