Art of commemoration
The October-November issue of Canada’s History magazine includes an excerpt from I Can Only Paint: The Story of Battlefield Artist Mary Riter Hamilton, by Irene Gammel. Beginning in 1919, Hamilton travelled to devastated towns and battlefields in France and Belgium where Canadian soldiers had been active during the First World War.
At the Somme, Vimy Ridge, and the Ypres Salient, Hamilton endured difficult conditions that included rough shelter, inadequate food, poor weather, and surroundings littered with unexploded shells. Working sometimes with canvas and at others with available materials such as paper, plywood, and cardboard, she nonetheless produced more than three hundred paintings between 1919 and 1922.
Gammel’s book places this period of Hamilton’s work in the context of the artist’s life and in relation to other art and war art. It includes dozens of full-colour reproductions of her paintings as well as maps, photographs, and illustrations. You can also read the excerpt online.