War Art- Olympic with Returned Soldiers, Moresby Picture Show

WAR ART– Heather Crain, Shelby Mader, Brianna McEachern, Jenna Hastings

moresby picture show

What aspect of war does this piece of art depict?

The aspect of war which the art piece Olympic with Returned Soldiers is transportation. The Olympic was used to transport over 200,000 soldiers across the Atlantic Ocean between 1914 and 1919. The ship used unique camouflage to safely transport soldiers without being detected by German U-Boats. The piece showcases the importance of transportation by providing insight to how soldiers were to get from point to point during the war. Without the use of ships such as the Olympic for transportation it would have been extremely difficult to move soldiers at a fast and efficient manner across large bodies of water and far distances. The image does not depict one single event of war but rather a tactic used throughout the war to ensure the safety of troops when moving from one place to another. The need to camouflage from the German U-Boats showcases the military tactics used by each side. The Germans wanted to destroy the ships of the Germans forcing Canada to create new means to safely transport their troops.  The significance of the piece of art and transportation in the war is the need for the moving of troops. Troops had to be transported to different fighting locations throughout the war; the troops were needed to arrive safely in order to perform required duties to protect and serve their countries.

Who created this piece of art?

Arthur Lismer created the piece of art “Olympic with Returned Soldiers” in 1919.  Lismer was born on June 27th 1885 in Sheffield England. In his teen years Arthur Lismer studied at the Sheffield School of Art from 1899-1906 and then went to Academie royale des beaux-arts to 1907.  Looking for work as a commercial illustrator he decided to transfer his life to Canada in 1911. From 1916-1919 Arthur Lismer went to Halifax and started his career as an art educator as principal of Victoria School of Art and Design. While in Halifax he painted beautiful artwork of the Halifax harbor and the returning troopships for World War One from 1918-1919. After the War he returned to Toronto and became the vice president of the Ontario College of Art and Design and in 1920 he became one of the founding members of the Group of Seven. The style Lismer showed throughout his art was seen as art, which showed raw colour, heavy impasto, a stiff showing of brushwork and a basic form. Most of Lismers life focused around art education as in 1927 to 1938 he became the educational supervisor at the Art Gallery of Toronto. During his time as the educational supervisor he went on a nationwide lecture tour that travelled to Europe and South Africa. After finishing his work at the Art Gallery of Toronto he became a visiting professor at Teachers College, Columbia University. Most of his artwork and time to paint came after 1930 and later after 1951. On March 23rd 1969, Arthur Lismer passed away in Montreal Canada.

 Where was this piece of art created?

Olympic with Returned Soldiers was a piece of art that was created by the Halifax harbor in Nova Scotia. The Halifax dockyard was very busy spot while the war was going on. During the war the Halifax harbor was Canada’s main naval base where ships came in to get supplies and also to send and return Canadian soldiers. The Olympic became well known for being a troop ship for the British, Americans and Canadians. Where the Olympic was well known, towards the end of the war the ship had been painted in the camouflage to make it more difficult to recognize when there was a rise in German U-Boats became a huge threat for attacks. As it was said earlier, Halifax harbors’ dockyard was quite a busy one, it was just two years before this painting when there was the largest man made explosion that happened in that harbor. It happened when two different supply ships were trying to pass each other in the narrower part of the harbor and collided. The explosion came from SS Mont-Blanc which it just been filled up explosives. Even though that may have happened this painting shows a happier seen as the boat is full of soldiers returning home at the end of war and people on the dockyard to welcome them home.

For what purpose was this art created?

This art was created to depict one of the most famous troop ships and shows the busy Halifax dockyard which was Canada’s main wartime naval based. The boat was entered into service in 1915. The boat was camouflaged in 1917 at the height of the German U-Boat threat to make the ship more difficult to identify and target. The Olympic was the sister ship to the Titanic and one of the few large liners to survive the war. The boat was the largest ocean liner in the world from 1911-1913 until the Titanic was built and had the title of the largest British- built liner until the Queen Mary was built in 1934. Unlike many of the Olympics sister ships it had a long career of twenty-four years from 1911 to 1935. The twenty-four year service included service as a troopship during World War I and this is when it gained its nickname old reliable because the Olympic held over 200,000 British, American and Canadian troops to and from the fighting fronts. The Olympic returned to civilian service after the war and served as an ocean liner throughout the 1920s and 30s. This art was created to showcase an ocean liner that was extremely vital during WWI. The liner outlasted many of its sister ships and was crucial in the transportation of troops from the fighting fronts.

What does this piece of art tell us about the experience of war?

The “Olympic with Returned Soldiers” piece of art tells us a lot about the experience of war. This piece of art was painted in 1919 by Arthur Lismer to show the troopship S.S. Olympic pull into port carrying troops from World War One. This piece of art shows us how the troops travelled from Canada to Europe and the war zone. Having to use troopships that while travelling could have come into contact with German U-Boats. The travel could be rough because if spotted by a German U-Boat there is an opportunity for them to shoot down and strand the oncoming troops to the war. This piece of artwork really shows how the troopships were able to surpass the German U-Boats by using camouflage. The S.S. Olympic is an example of this, which is shown in this piece of art, the camouflage is used to make the troopship more difficult for the U-Boats to detect. Also to defend themselves some to most of the troopships were armed throughout the duration of the war. This piece of art shows us the difficulties and problems it took for the ships to transport the troops of the Canadian Army from Canada to Europe.

How accurate is this depiction of war?

This painting is an accurate representation of the grand Olympic liner that outlasted many of its sister ships but I would not say it’s an accurate depiction of the war itself. The painting gives off emotions of excitement and joy because the soldiers who had been fighting in the front are now returning to Halifax. There appears to be women and children likely waiting for the arrival of loved ones and people waving. The war itself was not a time of blue skies and happy days rather a time of brutality and darkness. Many loved ones were lost during the war and living conditions were anything but bearable in most cases. Many soldiers were left to die alone in no man’s land either in the daylight or the darkness and these times were anything but happy. This painting reminds me of the calm after the storm. The Olympic is docking into harbor and people are ecstatic to see loved ones arrive home safely after large amounts of time spent away from each other however; war was not like this painting at all. Yes, there were likely days at war when the sun shone and for moments everything appeared to be normal but the reality is that war was a time of heartache and pain and that is not seen in this painting at all.

How does your piece of art further our understanding of Canadian history?

The art piece Olympic with Returned Soldiers aids our understanding of the First World War by highlighting the importance of transportation and the use of naval and water as a means to do so. The piece helps us understand how troops were transported so that they could efficiently help defend our country in war.  Through the troops using the S.S Olympic 200,000 troops were safely transported across the Atlantic from 1914 to 1919. The safe transportation of these troops was possible because of camouflaging done to the ship so that it was harder to be detected by German U-Boats. The camouflaging signified the resilience of the Canadian troops and how far they were willing to go to deliver their soldiers safely so that they could carry out their missions.  The piece shows us the supportive role that Canadian soldiers played in the war, signifying our role in Canadian history. Through seeing the large amount of troops carried across the Atlantic one can see that despite battles not being fought on Canadian soil, Canadian troops were their to support their allies. The support that Canada gave throughout the war and the war effort helped to signify Canada as a nation.


What aspect of war does this piece of art depict?

The aspect of war which the piece: Moresby Picture Show represents is leisure. The painting gives light to a more relaxed part of the war that people do not often get to see. Often the war is only looked at in terms of battles and fighting but this piece shows what the soldiers did when they had free time.  The soldiers are watching an outdoor screening of Donald Duck (a popular Disney movie/show). The movie was shown in color and the soldiers are wearing wet clothes while fixated on the screen. The intense gaze on the screen despite being wet showcases the need for relaxation and leisure by the soldiers. The painting was to depict the lighter life of a solider in New Guinea. While we generally focus on the fighting endured by soldiers the day-to-day life for a soldier in New Guinea was generally routine and boring (without a lot of fighting as well).  Distractions were considered necessary to keep the soldiers in reality and to see life beyond war. The leisure captured in the photo showcases the lure of an extremely popular American cultural icon even in times of war.

Who created this piece of art?

Charles Bush created the piece of art “Moresby Picture Show” in 1943. He was born on November 23rd 1919 in Brunswick East, Melbourne to his parents Andrew Charles Thomas Bush and Alice Maude nee Rohsburn. In his teen years he got accepted into the National Gallery School in which he attained multiple awards.  His first exhibition happened in 1939 and by 1941 he became fulltime involved in the Militia as an artillery survey unit. But in 1943 he became employed as a war artist where he painted in Papua and New Guinea, and was later transferred to the Australian Imperial Force and finished his work there in October 1946 as a lieutenant. When he returned to Melbourne, Bush was known and viewed as a sketch master in the National Gallery schools in 1953 and 1954. In 1959 Charles Bush became a TV host when he hosted the afternoon television show called ‘My Fair Lady’ which he depicted on the exterior of women; the show ended in 1962. After his time in TV he initiated the Leveson Street Gallery, North Melbourne. This gallery gave the young artists who were coming up in the business the encouragement and the criticism upon their art for them to improve. Charles Bush is one of the few artists o make a living off painting; he went through struggle and success in his lifetime. On November 13ht 1989, Charles Bush passed away from ischaemic heart disease.

Where was this piece of art created?

This piece of art was created in Port Moresby, New Guinea. It was this island where during the war the Japanese tried to take over and that would cut off Australia bases from the Americas and Southeast Asia. This was also a place where during World War II became a home for allies where there were bases and many troops often got stationed there. Not all soldiers got stationed there, but many of them went through there as it was known as the last jumping off point on the island as they started warfare to push back the Japanese advances. The Japanese want all of New Guinea but mostly because of Port Moresby as it was the biggest and closes city to Australia who were their enemies. Often times when thinking about the war people think about Europe where majority of the battles took place, however there was an aircraft battle that happened over New Guinea between Australia, United States and Japan. New Guinea did not have many battles like this and most of a soldiers’ day was rather routine, and the picture show put on in Port Moresby was a way to distract the soldiers from these routines.

For what purpose was this art created

The Moresby Picture Show was created to show that even in a time of brutal conditions that some peace could be found within soldiers. The tropical conditions in New Guinea were very harsh for soldiers both in combat and living in general. Most soldiers were not accustomed to the humidity and jungle terrain that New Guinea presented them with. The men shown in the picture are wearing what appears to be their rain gear standing outside and seem to be fixated by the childlike image. Donald Duck was and still is today a very popular cultural icon to the younger crowd so it seems a bit odd for grown men to be watching the fictional character but in a place like New Guinea where the conditions were rough a simple screening of a show would be much appreciated. This piece of art was created by Bush to emphasize the lighter side of service because daily life for the soldiers was anything but enjoyable therefore simple distractions were necessary.

What does this piece of art tell us about the experience of war?

The “Moresby Picture Show” piece of art tells us quite a bit about the experience of war. Charles Bush painted this piece of art in 1943 in Ports Moresby, New Guinea. This artwork shows the lighter and calmer side of the service life in World War Two. The art depicts soldiers who are wearing wet-weather gear who are watching a cartoon of Donald Duck. The painting of servicemen watching the cartoon character Donald Duck at a picture show really displays the softer side of the war. Even with the war going on around them and the conditions they have to go through they find time to come away from the war and step back into reality. The life in New Guinea for these soldiers was majority of the time, boring and very routine. Throwing in a picture show of Donald Duck created a change in their everyday lives in war and gave them something new and different to look forward to. Showing a picture show during the war also gave the opportunity to the soldiers to bond and become a closer troop and division.

 How accurate is this depiction of war?

I would say this painting is an accurate depiction of leisure time during the war. This painting was done in New Guinea where even leisure time was uncomfortable due to climate conditions. The men are standing outside in rain gear watching the screening of Donald Duck but appear to be content. Life as a soldier was exhausting both mentally and physically therefore any activity that got their minds off of the current situation would be helpful. The men appear to be comfortable and somewhat entranced by the screen. In a time of bloodshed even if only for a moment any form of positive distraction would be a relief. I would also say that the painting is an accurate depiction of the war because it almost looks like a brotherhood watching the screening. Soldiers lived in such close proximity to each other all the time that they developed a special bond and it appears in the painting like a family watching a movie. Soldiers fought together, laughed together, and died together and enjoyed times like these together. Although this painting is not an accurate depiction of the battle of war itself it is definitely an accurate representation of how solders bared the hardship of war together and took advantages of the simple things that the war offered.

How does your piece of art further our understanding of Canadian history?

The painting Moresby Picture Show showcases a lighter side to the war. In the painting soldiers are watching Donald Duck while in New Guinea. The reality of a soldier in New Guinea was that they generally did not see a lot of combat. Their life and role in day to day activities was generally routine and boring. The use of Donald Duck in the painting showcases the lure of a very popular American cultural icon even in the time of war. The painting is significant to understanding the Canadian role in history because it shows the reality of what life was like in the lighter times of war. Not all Canadian soldiers saw combat and were fighting constantly (although this tends to be an image in most people’s head and what we focus on). The painting allows us to see the human side of Canadian soldiers and see that even during the war there were still times of normalcy and measures were taken to ensure distractions from war and give time for leisure. The piece furthers our understanding of Canadian History by helping us to better understand the different roles of Canadian soldiers during the war. Not all our soldiers were there for combat some were there for support and never saw combat while others saw a lot of combat and had a difficult experience. It shows us that solders are still human and wanted to enjoy leisure activities just like everyone else.






Posted on March 20, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: