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8 January 2015: Dr Laura Brandon Retires from CWM

Brandon1After 22 years of service to the Canadian War Museum, Dr. Laura Brandon, Historian, Art and War, retired on January 16. In celebration, the Friends were invited to attend her Lunchtime Lecture “What Lies Beneath: Canadian War Art and Photography”, held in the Barney Danson Theatre on 8 January.

Dr. Brandon played a pivotal role in building the Museum’s internationally recognized collection of war art. She curated more than 40 temporary and travelling exhibitions, including the 2014 exhibitions Transformations – A.Y. Jackson and Otto Dix and Witness – Canadian Art of the First World War. Her past exhibitions include A Brush with War: Military Art from Korea to Afghanistan, which travelled across Canada from 2008 to 2012; Canvas of War, which received the Canadian Museum Association’s Award of Excellence in 2000; and Art and War: The Second World War Art of Australia, Britain, and Canada, which opened at the new Canadian War Museum in 2005 and later travelled to the Imperial War Museum and the Australian War Memorial.

Laura’s important contributions to scholarship both within and outside the Museum led to her achieving “Museum Scholar III” through internal peer review. She is the first woman to receive the rank in the Canadian Museum of History, and the first historian at the Canadian War Museum to reach this level.

Since taking up the position of Curator of War Art in 1992 with the Canadian War Museum, Dr. Brandon lectured extensively in North America and abroad and wrote numerous catalogues, articles, chapters and reviews. She is the author of the award-winning biography Pegi by Herself: The Life of Pegi Nicol MacLeod, Canadian Artist (2005), Art or Memorial?; The Forgotten History of Canada’s War Art (2006) and the internationally respected Art and War (2007), a survey of Western war art. 

More than a hundred people filled the room to hear her interesting talk about artists and their Brandon2photography. She took us from the First World War British artists like Augustus John who said to his wife, "I must have a camera", when he was sketching in the field, to a period entitled "conspiracy of silence" when Varley only admitted in 1970 that he used a camera. Throughout her presentation, Laura showed images of how photographs paralleled the paintings (or is it vice versa?). For example, Bruno Bobak's painting of a dead German resembled a photo he took of the subject with the image reversed. We also learned that Bobak used some of Alex Colville's 500 photos of the Second World War, for his own paintings.

Laura further discussed the use made of cameras by contemporary artists such as Elaine Goble, who happened to be in the audience!

After the lecture, many stood up to thank Dr. Brandon for her work, including Jim Witham, CEO of the War Museum.  Laura in turn, thanked her colleagues and also mentioned the contribution of the Friends and the volunteers they provided.

The day before, the art volunteers hosted a luncheon for Laura to bid her a fond farewell. However, that may not happen as Laura promised to haunt the War Museum forever and will remain a Friend!



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