The art produced during times of conflict is the subject of an exhibit at the Guelph Civic Museum. Witnessing War invites gallery visitors to engage with a multitude of art forms created during Canada’s participation in six global struggles, and includes paintings, photographs, drawings and poetry.
One piece in particular symbolizes the local impact of World War II. The oil on canvas painting The Air Gunner (1942) by Guelph artist Evan Macdonald is a portrait of 19 year old George Sydney Smith who was enrolled at the R.C.A.F. wireless school. Macdonald was a professionally trained artist who made countless sketches and paintings of Guelph and area from the 1920s through the 1960s. During WWII the Ontario Agricultural College campus (now the University of Guelph) was, after much local resistance, the temporary home of a military school for training in radio communications and cooking. Macdonald’s portrait captures the young recruit in a quiet, almost tender moment, and does not convey the typical esthetic of the indestructible solider.
Witnessing War is a commemoration of 150 years since the birth of Lt. Col. John McCrae, another Guelph soldier and artist, arguably the city’s most famous inhabitant. With a walk through the exhibit, one is given a window into the many creative interpretations of war and its impact on Canadians.
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