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Region's war sculptures focus of history forum (8 photos)

Presentation to OMAH puts spotlight on sculptural marvels depicting civil appreciation and perspective of a soldier’s duty and sacrifices during the Great War

The Orillia Museum of Art & History’s (OMAH) History Speaker Series hosted History Committee member Bruce McRae as guest speaker recently.

His talk, “The Sculptors of Great War Statuary in Central Ontario & Beyond”, was a captivating lecture. Bruce has a passion for researching and seeking out these monuments and it showed.

He explored war sculptures across central Ontario and beyond. His lecture celebrated the strong connection Canada has to their contribution in the First World War, honouring fallen soldiers for their service and sacrifice to their country. 

He enlightened us with his finds, the sculptural marvels depicting the civil appreciation and perspective of a soldier’s duty and sacrifices during the Great War.

Canada’s largest bronze to date was unveiled in 1925. Although not related to the First World War, the bronze statue which set this record was Orillia’s own Champlain Monument designed by Vernon March. It would only ever be surpassed in size by another bronze statue also designed by Vernon March, The National War Memorial named “The Response.” Ottawa’s memorial was unveiled in 1939.

Bronze statues are limited because of cost. Some statues such as the cenotaph located in Wingham, Ontario were made from a bronze mixture which oxidizes over time.

Each area offers a variety of sculptors talents ranging from March’s National War Memorial, in Ottawa, and sculptures by Emanuel Hahn located in Montreal, to sculptures created by Frances Loring in the Osgoode Hall Library at York University.

McRae concluded his lecture with a video produced by the Canada’s Veterans Affairs, “The Sculptor's Tools”, which has significance to us here in Orillia. The video examined sculptor Walter Allward, best known for the renowned Canadian National Vimy Memorial in Vimy France.

Allward gifted his wooden hand tools Emanuel Hahn, who was the husband of fellow sculptor and Orillia-born Elizabeth Winnifred (Wyn) Wood. He made a request to Hahn that the tools be passed down from generation to generation of artists.

This request by Allward that the tools be passed down has been maintained over the many years. Christian Corbet currently possesses Allward’s tools which were gifted to him from Dr. Elizabeth Bradford Holbrook.

Corbet had proven his dedication and passion for sculpting. These tools were displayed at the visitor education centre at Vimy Ridge to commemorate their 100-year-old history.

The tools signify the relationship the artist has with the community, creating the concept for art that attracts viewers from around the world. McRae explained that art shares a close relation to history, and that artists preserve this history for future generations.

Bruce invited the participants to take a road trip this summer to see some of Canada’s most reputable statues, as small towns in Ontario are abundant with these sculptural masterpieces.

Statues mentioned in the lecture can be found in Toronto, Wingham, Orillia, Collingwood, Shelburne, Orangeville, Meaford, Dundas, Montreal, Ottawa, Bolton, Lindsay, Welland, Oshawa, Guelph, Sault Ste. Marie, Peterborough, and Stratford.

The talk is now available on OMAH’s YouTube channel

OMAH and the History Committee will be hosting the next Speaker Series talk Wednesday June 16 at 7 p.m. Join us to hear guest speaker Cathy Walton’s talk "Vanishing Barns - Remembering the Gentle Giants through Photographs, Stories, Diaries and Genealogy".

Cathy will speak about specific barns and the stories of the families who built and used them. Click here to register and receive a link to the Cathy Walton’s talk or call Monica at 705-326-2159 or email [email protected]

The talk is free; donations to OMAH are greatly appreciated.


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