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Halifax Harbour in War Time by Arthur Lismer
23 May 2013 – 11 Aug 2013
Dazzle Ship at Night, 1916-1918
Oil on panel
22.9 x 30.7 cm
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia Collection
Purchased with funds provided by the Craig Foundation, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1999
On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the First World War (WWI, 1914-1918), Arthur Lismerís art documents the strategic importance of Halifax Harbour in wartime, while also exemplifying the state of ambitious Canadian artmaking during those years.
The exhibition contains five paintings and four lithographs completed during Lismerís tenure as Principal of the Victoria School of Art and Design (now Nova Scotia College of Art and Design) in the period 1916-1919. Lismer had emigrated from Sheffield, England, to Toronto in 1911. Before moving to Halifax he has associated in Toronto with the painters A. Y. Jackson, J.E.H. MacDonald and Tom Thomson. The characteristically heightened colour and decorative line in his paintings owes something to these paintersí shared interest in European art tendencies, such as Impressionism.
During the war, Halifax served as an embarkation point for Canadian troops and Allied cargo ships. The innermost reach of the harbour, Bedford Basin, was a centre for the assembly of convoys. In paintings such as Halifax HarbouróTime of War, Lismer employed the dazzle camouflage painted on the sides of the troopships as an integral part of the overall design. His lithographs record the regular troopship arrivals at Pier 2.
In 1918 Lismer was commissioned by the Canadian War Records, and completed 16 lithographs under the terms of this contract. Even when equipped with military permits, he often had difficulty gaining access to the waterfront, noting that: One of the local papers is lashing up an argument against landscape painters having access to docks etc. and I have been frequently reported as a suitable subject for internment.
Loans of art from the collections of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Dalhousie Art Gallery and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design are gratefully acknowledged.
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