A last­ing im­pres­sion

Fundraiser to cel­e­brate Arthur Lis­mer and Col. James Lay­ton Ral­ston Ar­moury

The Amherst News - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAR­RELL COLE

About a decade ago the North Nova Sco­tia High­landers Reg­i­men­tal Mu­seum came into pos­ses­sion of lith­o­graphs from a mem­ber of Canada’s famed Group of Seven painters.

Those lith­o­graphs, in­clud­ing seven by Arthur Lis­mer, will be dis­played promi­nently in an Amherst Area Her­itage Trust fundraiser, An Evening of Art and War: Arthur Lis­mer Comes to Town, on Fri­day, Nov. 16 at 8 p.m. at the Col. James Lay­ton Ral­ston Ar­moury.

“It’s an evening to cel­e­brate the work of Lis­mer and this build­ing that we’re work­ing dili­gently to save,” trust direc­tor and fundrais­ing co-chair­man Dale Davis said.

Davis said the evening, which was the win­ner of the ‘A’ Fresh Start com­pe­ti­tion hosted by the Town of Amherst, will fea­ture guest speak­ers talk­ing about Lis­mer’s work and those of other war artists as well as mu­sic of the First World War era and re­fresh­ments. There will also be tours of the reg­i­men­tal mu­seum and a silent auc­tion.

Fea­tured promi­nently will be the lith­o­graphs, in­clud­ing one by an­other war artist - Charles Wil­liam Jef­ferys.

The event is be­ing spon­sored by the Town of Amherst and the sea cadets corps.

“We’re hop­ing we’ll get a good turnout from the art com­mu­nity in Amherst and Sackville, N.B. as well as from peo­ple in­ter­ested in war and mil­i­tary his­tory,” Davis said.

Lis­mer was pres­i­dent of the Vic­to­ria Col­lege of Art, now known as the Nova Sco­tia Col­lege of Art and De­sign, from 1916-19. He was in­spired by the ac­tiv­ity in Hal­i­fax Har­bour dur­ing the First World War, most no­tably the dazzle cam­ou­flaged ships. His work came to the at­ten­tion of Lord Beaver­brook, who ar­ranged for Lis­mer to be com­mis­sioned as an of­fi­cial war artist.

He would even­tu­ally be­come a found­ing mem­ber of the Group of Seven.

“He was fas­ci­nated by the dazzle ships that would come into Hal­i­fax har­bour. They were painted that way to con­fuse the en­emy sub­marines,” John Wales, of the reg­i­men­tal mu­seum, said. “He made some colour paint­ings of them and one of them came to the at­ten­tion of Lord Beaver­brook. He used his in­flu­ence with the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to name him an of­fi­cial war artist and he was com­mis­sioned to do work around Hal­i­fax Har­bour.”

The lith­o­graphs had added mean­ing to her­itage trust mem­ber Vivi­enne Hud­son, who’s great-aunt suc­ceeded Lis­mer as the pres­i­dent of the Col­lege of Art.

“My great-aunt, El­iz­a­beth Styring Nutt, was a very good friend of Lis­mer’s. He was the pres­i­dent of the Col­lege of Art and when he left she was asked to be­come the direc­tor.”

It was af­ter Lis­mer left that the col­lege was re­named.

Ray Coul­son, cu­ra­tor of the mu­seum that’s lo­cated in­side the 104-year-old ar­moury, said the lith­o­graphs were found by an Amherst war vet­eran, who saved them from the garbage bin and brought them to the mu­seum.

“He ba­si­cally saw them in a bin that was be­ing thrown out. He saw the sol­diers in them and thought I’d be in­ter­ested in them,” Coul­son said. “He gave them to me and I put them in stor­age. I re­ally didn’t know what they were at first, but when we later pulled them out I saw the names Lis­mer and Jef­ferys and knew we had to do some­thing.”

Do­ing some­thing was tak­ing the lith­o­graphs to an art pro­fes­sor at Mount Al­li­son Uni­ver­sity, who was very fa­mil­iar with the work of Lis­mer. Coul­son said he was told the lith­o­graphs are valu­able, but he would not spec­ify how valu­able – only that he was ad­vised to put them in mu­seum stan­dard frames that would pro­tect them from things like open air, heat and hu­mid­ity.

Les­lie Childs, pres­i­dent of Amherst Area Her­itage Trust, said it’s rare for this art to be in Amherst.

“You couldn’t buy some­thing like this, there just aren’t many of these around,” Childs said.

She said it’s an ex­am­ple of why the ar­moury needs to be saved.

“The num­ber of peo­ple who passed through this build­ing show how this com­mu­nity and the Mar­itimes were a huge con­trib­u­tor to the war ef­fort in both the First and Sec­ond World War,” Childs said.

“The peo­ple who walked through these doors, some of them came home with wounds and some didn’t come home at all. I can’t un­der­stand how the fed­eral gov­ern­ment can aban­don this build­ing and say it’s only wor­thy of be­ing torn down.”

The ar­moury build­ing, built in 1915 and named for Canada’s de­fence min­is­ter dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, re­mains in limbo as the De­part­ment of Na­tional De­fence has been de­clared sur­plus and was set for di­vesti­ture in July 2017 be­fore MP Bill Casey and the de­fence min­is­ter, Har­jit Sa­j­jan, in­ter­vened to stop the process.

Amherst Her­itage Trust is head­ing the lo­cal ef­fort to save the ar­moury build­ing that is used by three cadet corps and is home to the mil­i­tary mu­seum.

DAR­RELL COLE – AMHERST NEWS

John Wales from the North Nova Sco­tia High­landers Reg­i­men­tal Mu­seum dis­cusses an Arthur Lis­mer litho­graph with Amherst Area Her­itage Trust mem­bers Dale Davis and Jen­nifer Cameron. Amherst Area Her­itage Trust will be show­cas­ing the mu­seum’s lith­o­graphs dur­ing An Evening of Art and War: Arthur Lis­mer Comes to Town, on Nov. 16.

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