99 Years Later: The Halifax Explosion, and Harold Gilman’s Halifax Harbour (1918)

Beaverbrook Art GalleryDecember 6, 20160 Comments

Harold Gilman (British, 1876-1919)
Halifax Harbour, 1918
watercolour; pen; ink on paper; pressed paperboard
35.6 x 53.3cm
Gift of The Second Beaverbrook Foundation

Today marks the 99th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion, a monumental day in Atlantic Canada’s history. Art often interprets life, but the attached image in this case interestingly doesn’t reflect the devastation that had recently happened. Harold Gilman was commissioned by Lord Beaverbrook in 1918 to paint the scene of the Halifax Harbour, with the intent of connecting it to the Explosion, but the artist instead chose to set the focus back from the shore, looking across to the less damaged side of the harbour.

Gilman was an artist, not a reporter, as Sylvia Gilman, the artist’s wife, put it, and he chose to focus on the calmness of the harbour in his work Halifax Harbour rather than the recent hardship and destruction. Seen here is one of Gilman’s watercolours of Halifax Harbour; another view, similar in outlook, is part of the National Gallery’s collection: https://www.gallery.ca/en/see/collections/artwork.php?mkey=5373

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