Witness is a traveling exhibition developed by the Canadian War Museum. This exhibition contains 53 works by 40 of Canada’s best-known artists including AY Jackson, Arthur Lismer, Henrietta Mabel May, Paul Nash, Dorothy Stevens and Frederick Varley. What makes this exhibition truly unique, however, is that it also includes powerful and poignant works by ordinary Canadian soldiers. These works add to the totality of the powerful war record that we will present at the Founders’ Gallery.
One hundred years ago, artists and soldiers of the First World War used art to convey to Canadians what they had witnessed. In grappling with how to depict the unfamiliar sights — tanks and gas attacks, dead and wounded fellow soldiers and friends, total destruction of the world around them — some artists fit these new experiences within a familiar artistic framework. Others recognized and embraced the novelty of the experience finding new ways to depict the war. Today, these same works continue to help us understand and appreciate Canada’s role in this unprecedented global conflict.