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Munnings – The War Years: 1918 War Artist Exhibition

The Beaverbrook Art Gallery

Munnings – The War Years is a 1918 war artist travelling exhibition organized by the Canadian War Museum and London’s National Army Museum. It brings together for the first time in nearly a century over 40 original impressionist paintings. The Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, New Brunswick was the first stop on the exhibition’s Canadian tour.

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The Beaverbrook Art Gallery presents a rotating schedule of contemporary and historical exhibitions that give focus to the art and visual culture of New Brunswick and the Atlantic region, as well as of Canada and Britain. The exceptional exhibition of Munnings – The War Years reveals Sir Alfred Munnings’ powerful legacy, making it possible to more clearly understand Canada’s First World War experience.

The exhibition, showcasing Alfred Munnings’ artistic talent, was made possible through funding support from the Commemorative Partnership Program.

“This funding enabled our goal of community engagement as we wanted to create an appreciation of what it was like to experience war,” says Tom Smart, Director and CEO of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. “And from an arts perspective, we were very pleased to showcase Munnings’ work because he demonstrated the relationship between soldier and horse in military operations, capturing their beauty in the war-affected landscapes of France in 1918.”

Alfred Munnings was commissioned in 1918 by Lord Beaverbrook through the Canadian War Memorials Fund to paint scenes illustrating the Canadian Cavalry Brigade and the Canadian Forestry Corps in battle. “He is one of the more important British painters and an official war artist of the first half of the twentieth century,” says Smart.

The essential role of the horse

In his art, the unique bond between horse and soldier was beautifully captured. Munnings portrayed the significant role of the horse during the Great War, from hauling artillery guns, to transporting vital supplies and ammunition, and carrying men into battle. He also successfully portrayed how soldiers cared for horses. The horses and soldiers were a team living in close proximity when on active service. They relied on each other. Munnings often painted representations of a soldier’s strength coupled with his compassion for his horse. As an artist, he captured the human side of war.

Inspired by art

In addition to presenting this exhibition, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery has partnered with CFB Gagetown to develop a full educational arts program to engage youth, Veterans, Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members, and the general public.

Alfred Munnings used art as a tool of engagement and his work gave soldiers hope. His contribution to the war effort will forever be recognized in our history.

“We’d like to inspire the local CAF community at CFB Gagetown to use their artistic abilities and to celebrate their service through art,” says Smart. “We know that through his paintings, Alfred Munnings was able to express friendship, caring, creativity, and spirit of innovation in support of mental health”.

Honouring Canada’s Veterans

Veterans Affairs Canada honours those who served Canada during times of war, military conflict and peace, and keeps the memory of their achievements and sacrifices alive for all Canadians. Funding is available to organizations undertaking commemorative initiatives through the Commemorative Partnership Program.

Note: Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Munnings – The War Years, 1918 war artist exhibition was closed to all visitors at the end of March. The Beaverbrook Art Gallery has established a partnership with the Canadian War Museum for future projects of this kind.

Date published: 2020-11-26


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