Weaponry and Wartime Experience

Women as War Artists

The Canadian War Memorial Fund and War Artists

Sir Max Aitken was a wealthy Canadian who emigrated to England in 1914. In 1917 he was awarded the title Lord Beaverbrook and later became one of Winston Churchill's valued advisors. In 1916, faced with the Canadian government's inertia on some matters connected with the First World War, Aitken saw to the establishment of a Canadian War Records Office, a collection of photographs, maps, and unit and personal war diaries documenting Canada's military participation in the Great War. Sam Hughes, the minister of militia and defence, assumed responsibility for the Office, and Aitken solicited his support for the addition of an artistic dimension to the collection. When Hughes was ousted by Prime Minister Borden, Aitken hastily established the Canadian War Memorial Fund to send artists to the front. The government gave the artists a rank and paid them, but the Fund, a private corporation, managed them, took the credit for their work and assumed ownership of the growing collection.

A. Y Jackson, David Milne and H.J. Mowatt are unquestionably the best known of the war artists. These men would be joined by female artists, although women were not allowed at the front. Florence Carlyle's portraits, executed mainly in London, include one of Lady Drummond, who headed the Canadian Red Cross there; this picture was funded by the Memorial Fund. In 1914 Caroline Arlington and her husband, architectural engravers living in Paris, offered their services to the Fund, but only Caroline's were used. Two of her etchings were accepted: The British Army and Navy Leave Club, Paris, named for a spot popular with the Canadian troops.

In 1918 the Fund extended its activities to the home front, and the National Gallery selected 20 artists, including four women - Mabel May, Frances Loring, Florence Wyle and Dorothy Stevens, who would still be painting long after war's end.