Beaverbrook foundation gives Canadian War Museum $300K to underwrite exhibition

Detail from Alfred Munnings, Halt on the March by a Stream at Nesle. Beaverrbrook Collection of War Art. Courtesy Canadian War Museum

The Canadian War Museum is celebrating a $300,000 donation from the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation.

The funds will help support a new exhibition that features the art of Sir Alfred Munnings, who was an official war artist commissioned by Lord Beaverbrook’s Canadian War Memorials Fund. The exhibition will travel internationally before coming to Canada. It includes more than 40 paintings by Munnings.

“We are grateful to the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation for its generous support of the international tour,” said Mark O’Neill, president and CEO of the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of History, in a media release. “This incredible gift will allow the Museum to introduce new audiences to Munnings’ depictions of the Canadian military, created during a period of his career that was pivotal in establishing his reputation as one of England’s most renowned painters of horses.”                                                                                                                              

“We are delighted to bring this important collection to the U.K. for the first time,” said Max Aitken, the president of the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation in the same release. “My great-grandfather commissioned many artists to capture the emotion of the First World War. One of the most important among these was Alfred Munnings, who produced evocative images of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade and the Canadian Forestry Corps, which can be seen in this exhibition.”

Munnings joined the Canadian War Memorials Fund art program in 1918 to document the service of the Canadian Cavalry Brigade and the Canadian Forestry Corps, along and behind the Western Front. His landscapes, many of which feature horses, established Munnings as an influential artist, the museum said. The war paintings are part of the Canadian War Museum’s Beaverbrook Collection of War Art.

Munnings is said to have tried to enlist in the army but was deemed unfit to fight. Instead he found a role at horse remount depots on the Western Front. During the war he painted many scenes on the spot including one famous portrait of the British general Jack Seely mounted on his horse Warrior in 1918. The painting is in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. Munnings worked on this canvas near the German lines and he came under shellfire while painting it. 

The exhibition has been developed by the Canadian War Museum in partnership with the Munnings Art Museum in England. It includes his equine art, landscapes and portraiture. It will be presented at the National Army Museum in London from November 2018 to March 2019, and at the Munnings Art Museum in Dedham, England, from mid-March 2019 to September 2019. The exhibition will then tour Canada, including at the Canadian War Museum.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.