Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Military Lecture – The Power of Witnessing in the Work of Battlefield Painter Mary Riter Hamilton

January 28, 2021 @ 7:00 pm

Clearing the Plains of Flanders, Mary Riter Hamilton

Clearing the Battlefields in Flanders, 1921, Mary Riter Hamilton


Dr. Irene Gammel presents, “The Power of Witnessing in the Work of Battlefield Painter Mary Riter Hamilton”. Canadian painter Mary Riter Hamilton blazed a trail by painting the First World War graveyards and battlefields in oil and daring to be—unofficially—Canada’s first female war artist. In 1919, just a few months after the armistice, she arrived overseas and worked amid harrowing conditions—inadequate shelter and food, surroundings littered with unexploded shells. In some 320 haunting paintings, she captured the emotional landscapes and destroyed sites where Canadian soldiers had fought. Irene Gammel will speak about the extraordinary life of this long-forgotten Canadian artist discussing how her paintings render powerful meanings as acts of witnessing. She will give insight into her own travels to Vimy Ridge, the Somme, and Flanders, while ending her talk with a brief reading from her new book on the topic.

Offered in partnership with the Laurier Centre for Military, Strategic and Disarmament Studies.

How to Access:

The military lecture is an online event. Register in advance through Eventbrite to take part in the conversation from the comfort of home. WebEx access link and password will be sent to attendees by email prior to the start of the event.


  • Watch the live stream on Facebook. Don’t miss an event! Follow Guelph Museums to receive notifications when we’re live.
  • Watch the live stream through the ONLINE Portal and check out videos from recent online events.

About I Can Only Paint: The Story of Battlefield Artist Mary Riter Hamilton

For Canadian impressionist Mary Riter Hamilton, capturing the emotional landscape of battlefields and graveyards in the months after the Great War’s armistice became an artistic calling and defined her work. A woman alone after the storm had passed, she found that her life after the war was indelibly marked by the experience.

Undeterred by a rejection from the Canadian War Memorials Fund, who nominated only male war artists abroad, in 1919 Hamilton received a commission from the Amputation Club of British Columbia (now the War Amps) to commemorate those lost at war. She travelled from Victoria to the pre-reconstruction battlefields and towns of the Somme, Vimy Ridge, and the Ypres Salient where amid harsh conditions – inadequate shelter and food, surroundings littered with unexploded shells – she recorded with determination, pride, and grace the ruins of war. Based on intensive archival research in Canada, France, and Belgium, and using many previously unpublished letters, I Can Only Paint offers an insider’s view of the artist’s vast, underexplored body of war work and the conditions in which she created it. Irene Gammel argues that Hamilton’s work encoded a female perspective that distinguishes her paintings from the work of official Canadian war artists.

I Can Only Paint is available for purchase through McGill-Queen’s University Press.

About Irene Gammel

Dr. Irene Gammel smiling. She has pale skin and dark brown shoulder length hair. She is wearing glasses and a black blazer.

Dr. Irene Gammel is Professor of Arts, Literature and Communication at Ryerson University and Executive Director of the Modern Literature and Culture Research Centre. A cultural critic on women’s heritage, she researches issues of gender, forgotten artists, and World War I; in addition, she leads a team on Operation Canada, a study of the Canadian war diary. Dr. Gammel held Tier I Canada Research Chair in Modern Literature and Culture (2005 to 2018) and was inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2009. She is the author and editor of 14 internationally acclaimed books. Her latest book is I Can Only Paint: The Story of Battlefield Painter Mary Riter Hamilton.

Follow on Twitter: @MLC_Research

Website: mlc.ryerson.ca




January 28, 2021
7:00 pm
Event Category:




Guelph Museums