and Canada
in the
Second World War
| Acronyms & abbreviations | About Art and War |

About Art and War - Australia, Britain and Canada in the Second World War

Nations go to war, but it is their citizens who experience it. This experience, social and individual, needs to be both recorded and interpreted. Journalists, photographers, and filmmakers record, and to an extent interpret, historical events. But artists provide a powerful insight into these events through their particular way of seeing the world.

In art, the sensuous and the emotional aspects of the experience of war are most effectively realised. Photographs and film, stories and documents, can all tell us about the reality of war; great war art not only shows it to us, it does so with unmediated appeal and in ways that can move us profoundly.

That we are able today to understand this shared experience is a direct result of the existence, in Australia, Britain and Canada, of official schemes that either employed and commissioned artists to record and interpret these experiences, or purchased works from artists in military or civilian service. Each scheme had its own agenda and priorities, but all these artists were engaged in a common task - depicting what it was like to live and act through the war. Whether it is the exhilarating heroics of the Battle of Britain, the boredom of potato peeling, the resolute aerial bombardment of Germany, the relief of liberation, the ghastly horror of Belsen, or the comforts and loneliness of returning home, the works these artists produced capture the breadth and depth of what the peoples of Australia, Britain and Canada experienced.

The stories of the artists themselves are inextricably part of these images, as they adapted and directed their work towards national needs, recognised the importance of recording, and responding to, the events and individuals around them, and undertook the risks needed to complete their work.

From the outbreak of hostilities Canada and Australia were staunch partners with Britain and fought in many theatres of operations through to the end of the conflict. This exhibition, which marks the 60th anniversary of the cessation of hostilities, is an important and fitting memorial to the joint efforts of our countries.


A collaborative project that extends over three countries is a complex undertaking. The Australian War Memorial, the Canadian War Museum, and the Imperial War Museum have worked together for several years on this exhibition and catalogue. Meetings have been held in all three countries, and there have been lengthy teleconferences. During this time a great many individuals in the three institutions have made significant contributions. Some of these people have since left, to be replaced by other hands, while some have stayed for the duration. In such circumstances, it is difficult to ensure that everyone who has contributed to the project be named. That said, the directors of the three institutions – Steve Gower, Robert Crawford and Joe Geurts – have been supporters of this project from the outset: it could not have happened without their enthusiasm and assistance.

The exhibition has only come about because of the staff in these three great cultural institutions. Curators, project managers, photographers, registrars and conservators provided essential skills and knowledge. Jude Savage, Head of Travelling Exhibitions at the Memorial, has been the project manager, charged with overseeing the entire exhibition and its catalogue. With her Travelling Exhibitions team, she has provided logistical support, ensuring that all aspects of this project occur within the necessary deadlines and within budget. Robert Nichols, the Memorial's senior editor, has provided invaluable advice to all the contributors. The availability of email and digital images has made the process more feasible.

Each institution formed a small group to work closely on the project. At the Canadian War Museum, Laura Brandon and Tony Glen, assisted by Maggie Arbour-Doucette, Valerie Beck, Tim Cook, Lisa Davey, Helen Holt, Dean Oliver, and Mark A. Reid, have worked not only on this exhibition but also juggled displays for their new museum building. At the Imperial War Museum, Roger Tolson and Angela Weight have been responsible for this exhibition, along with Mark Whitmore and Terry Charman. At the Australian War Memorial, Kerry Alchin, Ranee Buckle, Peter Burne, David Keany, Dara Rome, Charlotte Sarossy, and Betty Snowden have contributed to the project.

Lola Wilkins
Australian War Memorial

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Additional Copyright Information

© 2005 Australian War Memorial
The material contained herein constitutes Australian War Memorial copyright. Apart from any use permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, all other rights are reserved. All works in this book have been reproduced with permission. Thanks to the following copyright holders: Christopher Bell, Annette Asher, Ann Mills, Mary Nolan, Yosl Bergner, Anna de Polnay, Enid Hawkins, Alan Moore, Lyn Clarke, and Julian Lymburner.

© 2005 Imperial War Museum
All works from the Imperial War Museum are Crown Copyright, with the following exceptions: Edwin La Dell, VE Day street party, 1945 (copyright Mr Tom La Dell) and Paul Bullard, British prisoners of war, Italy, 1946 (copyright the artist's estate). These works are reproduced with their kind permission.

© 2005 Canadian War Museum
All rights reserved. No part of the content in this publication supplied by the Canadian War Museum may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the Canadian War Museum. All works from the Canadian War Museum are Copyright Canadian War Museum.

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