Memorial farewells Menin Gate lions and painting for overseas loan

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On 5 September 2014, the Australian War Memorial said a fond farewell to the Menin Gate lions and the painting Menin gate at midnight as they are taken off display in preparation for their loan to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

Dr Brendan Nelson, Director of the Australian War Memorial, was instrumental in arranging the loan to the Canadian War Museum for its First World War centenary exhibition The iron harvest.

Dr Nelson said he was honoured to be able to recognise the Australian–Canadian relationship with the short-term transfer.

“The Menin Gate lions stood on either side of the Menin Gate at the entrance to Ypres in Belgium. It was through these gates that both Australians and Canadians marched between 1914 and 1918,” Dr Nelson said.

“Menin gate at midnight, one of the best-known works of art at the Memorial, was painted to represent the spirits of those men with no marked graves who perished on the battlefields around Ypres.

“The opportunity to present these iconic items together symbolises the shared experiences of allied soldiers during the First World War.”

The Menin Gate lions, which sustained considerable damage during the war, were donated to the Memorial by the Mayor of the Belgian City of Ypres in 1936, and in 1985 it was decided to reconstruct the damaged pieces.

This will be the first time the lions have been taken off display since they were moved to the Memorial’s entrance in 1991.

Menin gate at midnight was painted by Will Longstaff in 1927 and has been on display at the Memorial since the building opened in 1941.

The Menin Gate lions will return to the Memorial in mid-2015. Qantas, in partnership with the Australian War Memorial, will then fly the lions to Ypres for the centenary of the battle of Passchendaele in 2017.

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