solo show: arthur lismer

In my part time life as a Collections Management Assistant for The Army Museum, I recently had the pleasure of working with some Arthur Lismer lithographs from the First World War. I was surprised and happy to learn that he was the Principle at the Victoria School of Art and Design (now called the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design) from 1916 – 1919. At the time he was hired, the school was in decline. He made a significant impact to enrollment and class offerings. Meanwhile he also made dramatic improvements to the now Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, which was also having its own struggles. All while, Arthur Lismer was building up his own body of art work.

Arthur Lismer lived in Bedford, outside the downtown core of Halifax. He painted the natural scenery around him as well as all the war time activity happening in the Bedford Basin and the Harbour. While many Canadians and art lovers know Lismer’s name as being a founding member of The Group of Seven, I am loving being introduced to this part of his oeuvre.


{Olympic with Returned Soldiers}

On December 6, 1917, the downtown of Halifax was nearly flattened due to a massive explosion that took place in the Halifax Harbour. Amazingly Arthur Lismer was at home in Bedford, taking his regular weekday day off. Like most downtown buildings, the college suffered significant damage. It soon became the local morgue. Lismer got right to work on capturing some of the action of those days. His drawings were featured on the front pages of the Canadian Courier. He became a commissioned war artist in 1918 and asked to capture the return of soldiers to Halifax.


Like his landscapes, Lismer’s war art is full and energetic as well. He brings the sights and sounds of Halifax during the First World War to life so many decades later.

ArthurLismer-HMCSGrilseonConvoyDuty ArthurLismer-AForwardGunonaPatrolBoat


ArthurLismer-ConvoyandTugs, 1918

{resources: The National Gallery of Canada; Lismer’s Legacy, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design; The Group of Seven and The Halifax Explosion: Focus on Arthur Lismer}


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