Shared Experience: Art and War

Colin Colahan, Ballet of wind and rain, oil on canvas, 50.8 x 60.9cm. ART25701

The experiences of Australia, Canada and Britain during the Second World War were shared ones. These countries were, after all, allies fighting a common enemy; they were also nations profoundly and historically linked politically, economically and socially; and, on notable occasions, they were involved in joint military operations. Geography, politics and military events created and shaped threats which demanded responses that were unique to each country. However, the common ground of Art and War - Australia, Britain and Canada in the Second World War is the impact the war had on individual lives: the men and women that feature in these works are shown waiting, preparing, fighting, suffering, celebrating.

The Commonwealth – Britain and the self-governing “dominions”, including Australia and Canada – entered the Second World War in September 1939. They all fought until the war’s end in 1945.

Britons, Australians, and Canadians served together all over the world, from the Arctic to North Africa, from the Atlantic to Burma: on land, in the air, at sea. Many Australians and Canadians served together directly as members of British forces, especially in the air.

Theirs was a shared experience. British Spitfire pilots defended Darwin; Australians crewed landing craft taking Canadians to the beaches of Normandy, and Canadians became prisoners of the Japanese. Airmen of all three nations served together in the air war over Europe, and especially in the bomber offensive.

This exhibition recognises that the nations of the British Commonwealth shared the experience of the Second World War, and recorded that joint endeavour through art.

Touring schedule
Gallery City State Start Finish
Canadian War Museum Ottawa ON, CANADA 08 May 2005 25 September 2005
Australian War Memorial, SEG Canberra ACT 04 November 2005 26 February 2006
Imperial War Museum London ENGLAND 23 March 2005 25 June 2006

Supplementary material

Shared Experience was an exhibition of paintings from the Australian War Memorial, Canadian War Museum and Imperial War Museum (UK), from 5 November 2005 to 26 February 2006.

Australian War MemorialCanadian War Museum Imperial War Museum