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War Artists

During World War II, the Canadian military used artists to paint images of the war. Often, a painting can offer a more complete idea than a photograph.


Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

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Guernica 1937

Picasso was one of the most prolific and unique artists of the 20th century. But we are only focussing on one painting.

The Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) was a brutal war immediately before World War II. The Nationalists, led by Francisco Franco opposed the Republicans of Manuel Azaña. Importantly, Franco's forces were backed by Germany, Italy and Portugal.

Both Germany and Italy wished to test their theories about bombing. On 26 April 1937, Germany bombed Guernica killing 200 to 300 civilians. Picasso has captured the horror of that event in Guernica.

Picasso refused to allow the painting to hang in Spain as long as the fascists under Franco were in power, so the painting hung in New York at the MoMA until 1981 when it was returned to Spain, and now hangs in the Reina Sofia in Madrid.

Wkikpedia Guernica by Pablo Picasso

Wkikpedia Pablo Picasso

Wkikpedia Spanish Civil War


Alex Colville

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Alex Colville, Infantry, Near Nijmegen, Holland, 1946
Oil on canvas, 101.6 x 121.9 cm
Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa

Colville enlisted in the Canadian Infantry in 1942. In 1944 he was appointed an official war artist and painted in England, France, Holland and Germany. He was one of three Canadian artists who visited Belsen concentration camp after its 1945 liberation.

Museum Alex Colville

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Bodies in a Grave by Alex Colville 1946

Alex Colville is a world renown Canadian artist. During World War II he was assigned as an artist with the Canadian Army. He made drawings of the horrors of the liberated Bergen-Belsen Camp and after the war painted several images including this one.

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Messerschmitt 109 in the snow, Holland – Alex Colville

Molly Lamb (Bobak)


Lawren P Harris

Lawren P Harris is the son of the very famous Lawren S Harris who sponsored the Canadian artist group "The Group of Seven".



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