By Paul Gessell
War posters traditionally have fit into one of three categories. There are recruitment posters — America’s Uncle Sam Needs You being the most famous. A second category tries to maintain morale on the home front, sometimes by showing Mom and the kids happily harvesting wheat while Dad serves overseas. The third demonizes the enemy, such as the notorious Second World War poster showing evil looking Japanese soldiers ready to pounce on a house full of sleeping Canadian children.
And then there are the war posters created by Canada’s best known contemporary war artist Gertrude Kearns. Unlike most war posters, Kearns’s work is not meant to be propaganda supporting, or criticizing, military activities. Instead, Kearns approaches her posters like an unbiased journalist approaches a news story: She simply tells it like it is.
The Toronto-based Kearns is something of a favourite at the Canadian War Museum. The foyer’s portrait wall features three paintings by Kearns: One about the Canadian military’s Somali misadventure in 1993; a controversial portrait of a mentally distressed General Romeo Dallaire, of Rwanda fame, painted on camouflage cloth; and a third one showing General Lewis Mackenzie, who, depending upon your perspective, is either a hero or a villain of the 1992 Yugoslavian civil war. (more…)