100 years of the Navy through war artists

The Navy: A Century of Art looks at Canadian naval life during war and peace, as seen by official and unofficial war artists such as Alex Colville and Arthur Lismer, from The Battle of the Atlantic to the homecoming in Canada's harbours. The travelling exhibition by the Canadian War Museum opens in Abbotsford today.

100 years of life at sea captures the nation's naval history, coming to Abbotsford

(Canadian War Museum)

Most people have never experienced the whipping winds, tilting deck and the salty splash of waves on board a navy ship travelling across the Atlantic.

But an exhibition opening in Abbotsford hopes to give viewers a sense of what life was like in the navy, as seen through the eyes of war artists. 

"The Navy: A Century of Art" was produced by the Canadian War Museum and it is travelling to several cities across Canada. 

The Reach Gallery Museum in Abbotsford is hosting the exhibition until January 5, 2014.

Laura Brandon, the acting director of research for the Canadian War Museum, travelled to Abbotsford to open the exhibition.

One of the show's highlights is The Olympic with Returned Soldiers by Arthur Lismer. which depicts The Olympic, a naval ship that was a sister vessel to The Titanic, coming into port, and sets up the contrast between war and military life, and the home front.

The exhibition features both official and unofficial war artists, and many who are part of the exhibition went on to be famous painters, including Alex Colville and Arthur Lismer, before he helped to form the Group of Seven.

While at sea, the artists often dealt with challenging painting conditions on the boats, such as trying to paint watercolours in the Arctic, Brandon says.

Today, the Canadian Forces Artists Program continues to employs painters as well as photographers, musicians, and poets, she notes.

With files from Jennifer Chen


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