The Canadian War Museum’s collection of Second World War art, collectively entitled “The Canadian War Records,” is primarily made up of artwork officially commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada on behalf of the Canadian Government. Through this scheme 33 Official war artists were given the sponsorship and protection of the three branches of the Armed Forces. The artists’ objective was to illustrate Canada’s role in the Second World War. This made it possible for them to travel around Canada to record activities at training bases and also to be sent overseas to record the military action in various parts of the United Kingdom and war-torn Europe. Many of Canada’s official artists found themselves close to the thick of the battle, whether on land, on the seas or in the air.

There were also, however, many artists among the ranks of enlisted men. These ‘unofficial’ artists painted, sketched, and drew for their own pleasure, depicting what they liked as they liked without the thought that their works were destined for a Canadian heritage art collection. They drew and painted to hone their artistic skills, to record their experiences, to fill leisure time, and in the case of many, as a means of therapy, helpful in unfamiliar situations disconnected from everyday life. In recent years, many of these works have been donated by the artists and their families to the Canadian War Art Collection at the Canadian War Museum. The informality of the subject matter presents an invaluable background to the official paintings of the war.