a journal of original drawings and screen prints of animals


Thursday, November 17, 2016

The National War Monument

The National War Monument
Remembrance Day took place during our time in Ottawa. Wars throughout the centuries are acknowledged for many different reasons but in amongst those reasons are the lives that have been lost. Everyone has been affected by war, everyone has paid a price. There is no glory only sadness.

The National War Monument pictured here was originally intended to commemorate WW1 but has since become a symbol for all wars.
I would like to acknowledge the artist behind this monument, as it is the artists who seem to be the first to be forgotten.

Vernon March was his name, born in Yorkshire, England in 1891, the youngest of nine children( all of whom were in the arts (3 of them, sculptors)). Vernon, interestingly enough, had no formal art training.

In 1925 Canada announced an international competition for a National War Monument. There were 127 applicants but it was Vernon's proposal that won the competition.

There are a total of 22 bronze soldiers almost 8 feet/2.4 m. in height, representing the different branches of the Canadian military as it was during the First World War, including 2 female nurses. There are also 2 bronze horses. The expressions are all different from one another, the modeling conveying an "eagerness and enthusiasm of the people" as was Vernon March's intent. But I think there is a lot more going on. There is also a sense of weariness and uncertainty that can't be denied in the trudging motion and bent heads, not to mention the slumped shoulders from the weight of their rifles and back packs. Even the horses convey the difficulty of the task.

images from Wikimedia Commons
The group which is 52 feet/ 16 m. in length, strains forward and through a marble arch that is over 8 m./ 26 feet in height with allegorical figures of peace and freedom on top. The symbolism of moving through to the other side is quite obvious.

Vernon March died of pneumonia 2 years before the completion of this monument. His brothers and sister who were assisting him with the work, were the ones to complete it in 1932. But it wasn't until 1938 that the monument was finally installed in its present location. 

Even back then, there were difficulties for artists to have their work displayed. Canada was, at this time, immersed in the Depression. Money was short, regardless of the project having been started years before. It was felt that the money would be better spent taking care of the veterans who survived rather than commemorating the ones who had fallen. How ironic that the National War Monument was unveiled just one year before Canada found herself involved in the Second World War.

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