Monday, November 20, 2017

Fifty Years

City Hall has a couple of gallery spaces with a rotating schedule of artists featured throughout the year. In October, one of those spaces was given over to a show on the works of Terry Mosher, who works under the professional name Aislin as an editorial cartoonist for the Montreal Gazette. Born here in Ottawa and spending his professional life in Montreal, he has worked in the field for fifty years, first at the Montreal Star before moving to the Gazette. He has recently published a volume, From Trudeau To Trudeau: Fifty Years Of Cartooning as a retrospective, the latest of a good number of books with his work. Aislin has had many honours of his profession, including the Order of Canada, the Canadian News Hall of Fame... and the distinction of being the very first editorial cartoonist denounced in the House of Commons. The entrance featured this whimsical sculpture of the man himself.

Aislin (a spelling variation on the names of one of his daughters) started his career shortly before Pierre Trudeau became prime minister, and now with Justin Trudeau in the same position, his latest book title is fitting. Portraits of him with father and son, decades apart, were also featured at the entrance.

The rest of the space was given to some of his multitude of work, ranging from sports, the city of Montreal, the province of Quebec, the country, and the world. One section featured the devout love Montrealers have for the Canadiens of the National Hockey League.

More works here included contemporary and historical figures, both here and abroad, often with a wink of the eye or a well deserved barb, as the job requires.

Here we have some examples of how Aislin has addressed the Royal Family over time, with a comparison photograph and a formal letter from the Queen's office inquiring as to the meaning of one of them accompanying the cartoons.

My American readers can relate to these two. Apologies to Donald Duck and the pig, both of whom are far smarter and better socially adjusted than Agent Orange.

The previous and totally not missed federal government under Stephen Harper is the focus of these.

Occasionally Aislin has done montages like this large one for Quebec City, carrying his brand of humour throughout.

He has also been the subject of a documentary in recent years.

These have something of an international tone, capturing Vladimir Putin, gun violence, terrorism, and the impact of AIDS in the Third World.

More international material here, particularly American presidents. I have more from this exhibition in tomorrow's post.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Victoria Cross

I am finishing my series from the War Museum today. Stepping out of Regeneration Hall brings us into the final display area, Lebreton Gallery, where vehicles and equipment are on display in the large open space. This includes two large plaques on a wall. These stood once in the Toronto flagship store of the Eaton's department store chain, and commemorated those employees of the company who fought and died in both World Wars.

There is a wealth of equipment here, from different eras and different parts of the world.

This is a diorama featuring one aspect of the First World War battle of Passchendaele. A German pillbox has been cut away to show the men inside. To the right, in one of the puddles of mud that was so typical of that battle, stands a lone Canadian. Sergeant Tommy Holmes won the Victoria Cross for courage- he and his battalion were pinned down by heavy fire, and he was able to use grenades to remove the threat. The vivid detail, with men down in the mud, captures the brutality of the battle, which marked a Canadian victory one hundred years ago this year, albeit a costly one.

Another larger view of the Gallery includes the Voodoo fighter jet.

This is Weather Station Kurt, a legacy of the Second World War. The crew of a German U-Boat installed this automated weather station at the northern edge of Labrador in 1943 to transmit weather conditions back to Germany, disguised with English lettering to look as if it was Canadian. The equipment ceased transmitting soon thereafter, and the weather station went forgotten for decades until a researcher in Germany going over records traced its existence and informed the Canadian government. Kurt now resides here.

Here we have the ramp taking us up towards the main entrance hall. Large panels of art are on the wall to the right.

Coming back out to where I had started my visit were six paintings. These were portraits of men who fought in the Battle of Hill 70, a ferocious fight between Canadian and German troops, from August 15th to 25th, 1917, near Lens, France. Casualties on both sides were horrendous, but it was a victory for the Canadians, and six Canadian soldiers won the Victoria Cross as a result of their actions throughout the battle. When you read the stories of men who did this, they won it by doing things that by all rights simply could not be done.

Michael James O'Rourke is at the left. Already having had distinguished himself at the Somme, he was a stretcher bearer at Hill 70, where he showed great courage under fire in tending to wounded comrades and getting them to the rear lines. His citation reads that he "showed throughout an absolute disregard for his own safety, going wherever there were wounded to succour." Harry Brown is at the right. He was a message runner during the battle, taking messages from headquarters to the lines, something that was done in pairs in case one was killed. His partner was killed, and Brown himself severely wounded, but he kept moving until he delivered his final message, dying shortly thereafter.

Frederick Hobson is on the left. A sergeant manning a machine gun on the fourth day of the battle, Hobson drove back a German counter attack against his battalion's lines with concentrated fire. When his gun jammed, he rushed forward into the German lines, shooting, stabbing, and clubbing German troops until he was killed in close combat. His sacrifice gave the Canadians time to regroup and push back the German counterattack. On the right, Filip Konowal was a corporal in the battle, leading other men against German lines, at one point fighting seven Germans at once, and killing them all. Wounded in battle, he nonetheless survived the war and passed away in 1959.

Okill Massey Learmonth is on the left. On August 18, 1917, he organized defences of the lines against German counter attacks. Mortally wounded, he still maintained directing his men into pushing back the Germans, dying of his wounds the following day. On the right is Robert Hill Hanna. He took command of his company after the officers had been killed in three previous assaults during the battle. In their fourth assault, he led the company in bringing down a German machine gun nest, an act that his citation commends him for: "but for his daring action and determined handling of a desperate situation, the capture of a most important tactical point would not have succeeded." Hanna's portrait is done by A.Y. Jackson, who spent the war as a military artist, and was a founder of the Group of Seven. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

New Disorder

The last time I was in the War Museum, the final section was blocked off, as a reorganization of the large space at the end of the Cold War section was underway. It was open this time, starting with an introductory set of panels.

This is a section of the Berlin Wall, given to Canada after the government hosted a conference of foreign ministers in the wake of the events of the fall of 1989 to determine the future of Germany. The graffiti is on the side that once faced West Berlin; there is no such graffiti on the side that faced East Berlin.

Canada sent military assets- navy and air force- into the Persian Gulf as part of the Desert Storm coalition, which is examined here.

Canadian peacekeepers were dispatched into the former Yugoslavia in the 90s. This light utility vehicle came under attack by Serbian forces in Croatia in 1994- 54 bullets hit it, with ten of those hitting the passenger and driver.

Another case of an attack is here. Canadian forces were in Afghanistan from 2001 through 2014 as an active combatant against the Taliban. Afghan insurgents used an IED to destroy the front of this vehicle, which used to stand in Lebreton Gallery. Three soldiers and one journalist were saved by the protective armour of the rest of the vehicle.

This is the typical uniform and equipment being used on patrols by Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan during that period.

This is a portion of a Chinook helicopter from the Afghan conflict. A corporal painted the design onto the helicopter- this is a hockey term, but also references the helicopter's two hooks on the belly for lifting equipment.

The Royal Canadian Legion Hall of Honour comes after one has emerged from the permanent galleries, and focuses heavily on commemoration. One of the display areas focuses on peacekeepers, including a model of the Peacekeeping Monument that stands downtown.

Another item here is the original plaster model for the War Memorial.

The next stop from here is Regeneration Hall, another focal point for the museum's design, pointed squarely towards the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill. Walter Allward's sculptures for the Vimy Ridge Memorial are here.

With some of the Vimy sculptures off in the temporary exhibit, part of Regeneration Hall had space for a different kind of exhibit, a collaborative effort. War Flowers was done by sculptor Mark Raynes Roberts and a specialist in scents, Alexandra Bachand, with museum curator Viveka Melki. Crystal sculptures, photographs dating back to the First World War, and stored scents in various combinations could be experienced with several different examples.

Friday, November 17, 2017

War And Peace

Carrying on with the Second World War area, the effects on the home front are explored, including a series of propaganda posters of the era.

The Italian campaign has an extensive display area. This photograph from the period caught my eye.

The Normandy campaign follows. Canadians stormed Juno Beach on D-Day, with 110 ships among the Allied naval force bringing in troops and providing support. These two paintings depict the action above Juno Beach and on the beach itself that day.

There is a balcony here that looks out onto Lebreton Gallery, where military vehicles and equipment are on display.

After wrapping up the story of the Second World War, the Museum's next stage explores the Cold War through to the current day. The Korean War is a big part of that, and there are several paintings here by  an artist, Ted Zuber, done in recent years, that capture that conflict. Zuber served in that war as a young man. Welcome Party depicts a Canadian patrol coming across dead bodies in the winter.

Freeze shows another Canadian patrol halt in their steps in the light of an enemy flare.

Holding At Kap'yong features a moment in battle in mountainous country on the Korean peninsula.

A NATO control center is also recreated here, approximately what you might expect in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Simulations of what the Third World War might have unfolded as play out on the screens above.

Presented here is a model of the trustworthy Sea King helicopter.

Canadian involvement in peacekeeping operations is also featured here. This painting by Donald Connolly is titled Mail Delivery- Sinai. 

This is wreckage from a peacekeeping tragedy- fragments of a Canadian plane shot down by Syrian surface to air missiles in 1974. Nine people were killed, and it is still the single biggest loss in Canadian peacekeeping history.

There is a recreation of a Cyprus tavern here. Canadians have been involved in the peacekeeping operations there extensively.

Among the items here is a painting, Gateway To Cyprus, painted by Real Gauthier. The Paphos Gate is an old entry into the city of Nicosia. At one point it was an observation post for peacekeepers, but today serves as a police station.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Time And Conflict

A reminder to members of City Daily Photo that the theme day for the first of December is Gift.

The permanent galleries in the Canadian War Museum tell the story of Canada's military history in chronological order, beginning with conflicts between First Nations people through to European contact. The French and Indian War and the American Revolution are examined as well. During this visit, my photography began with the War of 1812. This is a model of the HMS St. Lawrence, a British navy ship built in Kingston at the time, and which lies in the harbour today after sinking years after that war.

The weapons and wampum belt seen here would be typical of First Nations allies to the British during that war. The portrait is of John Norton, also known as Teyoninhokarawan, a Cherokee warrior with a Scottish mother who had been adopted by the Mohawk chief Joseph Brant. Norton led First Nations warriors against the Americans at the Battle Of Queenston Heights.

Another leader of that war can be found here. Charles de Salabery was a rarity- a French Canadian who rose to become an officer in the regular British army. He served with distinction, commanding the light infantry regiment called the Voltigeurs Canadiens in the War of 1812.

The galleries move on in time, through events of the latter 19th century and the South African War before the extensive area dealing with the First World War. This is Canada's Answer, a large painting by Norman Wilkinson, an English artist. He captured the October 1914 sailing of ships for Europe bearing Canadian men for the war.

Another striking work of art nearby is this sculpture, based on a story that may or may not be true- that German soldiers crucified a Canadian soldier on a door.

The life of a soldier is explored among the panels and artifacts of battles. One of the displays includes things that might be found in a soldier's kit in the trenches. That includes, at the lower left, an inedible item many American Civil War soldiers might have been familiar with: hardtack. 

The Halifax Explosion of December 6th, 1917, is examined in depth, with photographs of the carnage accompanying the text, as well as pieces of one of the ships destroyed in the detonation. 

The Second World War area of the galleries opens with an examination of the state of the world during the 1930s and the forces that drew everyone into war. A painting based on action in the Atlantic drew my eye. Painted in 1944 by a lieutenant, Thomas Charles Wood, The Boarding Of The U-744 depicts sailors from the H.M.C.S. Chilliwack boarding the disabled German submarine on an intelligence gathering  run in the Atlantic.

Canadians were at war not only with Germany in the European theatre of operations, but also with Japan, and that aspect of the war is covered in this area. One of the panels examines the Japanese practice of sending balloon bombs east across the Pacific to strike at North America. One of those balloons hangs overhead.