Friday, January 25, 2019

The Harbour

In 1918, the Canadian War Memorials Fund commissioned two artists to document the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia in the wake of the explosion that had wrecked such havoc the previous December. Harold Gilman was a British artist who came to Canada to do the assignment (as fate would have it he would be dead by the following year, one of the many victims of the influenza that swept across the world in the wake of the Great War). Arthur Lismer was the Canadian artist, already known for landscapes, and who would wind up being one of the founders of The Group of Seven. Their paintings and sketches are the basis of this temporary exhibit, 1918 Halifax Harbour.

Mine Sweepers At Sea is a 1917 oil painting by Lismer, depicting the naval ships engaged in hazardous duties.

These are studies for the painting that follows. Lismer, like the rest of The Group Of Seven, tended to use small canvases in the field and would transfer his ideas to a larger canvas in studios. These show the dazzle ships- the patterns used during the Great War to break up a navy ship's outline. The harbour at Halifax was a busy spot throughout the war for such ships, and the dazzle camouflage pattern interested Lismer.

Dazzle Ship At Night is a formal painting by Lismer.

Winter Camouflage is a 1918 Lismer oil painting giving us the wide view of the Bedford Basin in winter, with navy ships out in the harbour waiting for their time to commence the crossing across the ocean.

The Sentinels dates to 1919; Lismer created this lithograph on paper.

Another lithograph from the same period by Lismer is Harbour Defence- Winter. German submarines were known to be in the waters off the East Coast, and this captures defensive measures in place around Halifax.

Halifax Harbour is a large Gilman painting dating to the fall of 1918. It was the last painting finished before his death. 

This pen and ink sketch is also by Gilman. House At Halifax, Nova Scotia is on loan for this exhibit from the Higgins Art Gallery and Museum in Bedford, United Kingdom.

This smaller canvas is Study For Halifax Harbour, a 1918 painting Gilman did to prepare himself for the larger work.

And here we see the two paintings across from each other. Tomorrow I wrap up this series.


  1. favorite is 'Mine Sweepers At Sea.'

  2. Beautiful ... but I love the cruise ship port! :))
    Wishing you a very nice weekend!

  3. A lot of different styles, each with their own charm.

  4. I'll admit, I had to Google what the Halifax explosion was all about. It was certainly a major maritime disaster. I had no idea that Halifax had such a critical role in WWI. A fascinating series of paintings... esp the mine sweeper.

  5. I prefer his first paintings a bit impressionist style.

  6. Good paintings. I like the first painting.

  7. It is interesting to see the view of the gallery in your final shot.

  8. Did they ever think how many eyes would see their framed work one day?

  9. Hello, wonderful series of paintings. Winter Camouflage is my favorite. Happy Friday, enjoy your day and weekend!

  10. love all the ships ... that one is super tall .. very cool. happy weekend!! can't you believe how quick the week flow by ... it is nuts!! ( ;

  11. Excellent series of naval paintings William, the Dazzle ships were pretty amazing!

  12. @Tom: it's a good one.

    @Ella: thank you.

    @Jan: indeed.

    @Gemma: it was quite important for the war effort, and the explosion marked the city forever.

    @Gattina: thanks!

    @Francisco: thanks!

    @Nancy: so do I.

    @Joan: I thought so too.

    @Sandi: I wonder if artists think of that.

    @Eileen: thank you!

    @Beth: yes, the week went quickly.

    @Grace: that they were.

  13. The first one was my favorite, too. I am learning so much from this series.

  14. Hello William!
    Beautiful paintings! The first one is my favorite!
    Have a lovely weekend!

  15. We don't often think of events in the artists everyday life.

  16. Oh I've so loved the museum visit. Thank you so much!

  17. Beautiful paintings, William !

  18. @Whisk: so do I.

    @DJan: I'm enjoying showing it.

    @Dimi: thank you.

    @RedPat: thanks!

    @Red: that is true.

    @Barbara: you're welcome.

    @Karl: that they are.

  19. A great series. I too read about the Halifax explosion. An interesting part of history, as is this post!

  20. That Winter Camouflage is the one that stands out for me.

  21. Enjoyed this very nautical series. Thank you for the history also.

  22. A wonderful place to wander. Thanks. I tried to Tweet, but it said I had already Tweeted this Post.

  23. Wonderful paintings, William. My favorite is the Study For Halifax Harbour.

  24. @Michelle: thank you!

    @Sharon: it's a beauty.

    @Denise: you're welcome.

    @Mari: thank you.

    @Bill: wonderful indeed.

    @Marie: I agree.

  25. It looks like a good exhibit, but I think I'm getting even angrier that I wasn't allowed to take one photo when I was there last -- apart from the main hall, and by that I mean the outside hall. Grrr.

  26. Great art depicting Halifax ~ ^_^

    Happy Day to you,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  27. That last shot was a surprise. I hadn't visualized the study painting as being quite as large as it was, even relative to the final version.

  28. We've visited Halifax. We bought a DVD of the explosion. It was quite something.

  29. Ever since learning more about Lismer when we were in England through that guitar series, these paintings mean even more to me.

  30. I certainly enjoyed 'The Harbour' another collection of great paintings.

    All the best Jan

  31. @Anvilcloud: you'll have to pay a visit!

    @Carol: I certainly thought so.

    @Kay: yes, usually study canvases are quite small.

    @Sami: I certainly thought so.

    @Jennifer: the War Museum has items of the Explosion in their permanent galleries too.

    @Jeanie: Lismer's legacy looms quite large.

    @Jan: I did as well.

    @Klara: I thought so!