Anna Hergert, Art & Design

The Stone Carvers Revisted

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A recent visit to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa was an excursion recommended by Jan, an executive member of the Ottawa Valley Quilters’ Guild. A stop not on my original agenda I contemplated the relevance and whether it would capture my interest. Jan insisted that the architecture alone would be worth a visit. If that was not enough the molds of the Vimy Memorial might be another great reason to venture to one of Ottawa’s newest sights.

Thursday afternoons the museum offers free admission from 4 – 8 pm. We arrived close to 6 pm and walked into the first exhibit covering the war of 1812. The anniversary of these momentous events had been the focus since we arrived in the eastern part of Ontario. From Kingston and Prescott to Ottawa there was no escaping countless exhibits, flags and historical plaques.

We made our way from exhibit hall to exhibit hall covering wars and conflicts Canada had been involved in since before the country’s inception. My personal interest was not in the war, tanks, guns, canons, camouflage gear or uniforms. Yes, I can appreciate the intricate metal embroidery on a historical English uniforms but that is where my appreciation begins and ends… I apologize to those readers who take a more active interest. I found the sound effects of sniper fire carrying across the space very unsettling and after an hour I was ready to seek the exit!

However, I was on a mission: I was determined to locate the molds and 17 plaster models that are part of the Vimy Ridge WW I Memorial – and time was running out. Finally – at about 7:15 pm we found the door to a staircase that descended into semi-darkness. I had reached my destination! I was immediately transported back in time. Each model evoked strong emotions and it was difficult to tear myself away from these life-like statues so masterfully created between 1925 and 1936. The primary reason for this interest was that this spring I read “The Stone Carvers” by Jane Urquhart, a Canadian author who brought to life fictional characters that were instrumental in creating the Vimy Ridge Memorial.

Flash photography was not allowed, so I played with the F stop and aperture on my camera to utilize the manual settings. I am pleased with the outcome – the low light conditions add to the mystique of each sculpture. It was quiet in the exhibition space – finally! And I found it difficult to exit, especially since the final hall is filled with military transport vehicles, tanks and a large plane suspended from the ceiling.

We rounded out our visit by exploring the lookout point from the grass covered roof top capturing pictures of Ottawa at sunset and the Peace Tower in the distance while contemplating the exhibits we had visited. In closing I want to mention that the architecture did not disappoint, despite the first impression of entering a concrete bunker. The concrete sections are interspersed strategically with glass allowing natural light to enter into specific designed areas. As we left our parking space and looked back the lights streamed from the window sections illuminating the building and diffusing the stark concrete lines.


This entry was published on September 18, 2012 at 4:22 am. It’s filed under Art, Exhibition, History, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

10 thoughts on “The Stone Carvers Revisted

  1. marginmirror on said:

    Thanks for this insight; now I will have to seek out Ms. Urquhart’s book! As an aside…I grew up only miles from the site of the Battle of Chateauguay (Quebec), a pivotal one in the War of 1812 that kept the Americans from reaching/capturing Montreal; thus it has long been a fascination…


    • Anna Hergert on said:

      Did you go back east for the anniversary of the war of 1812 this year? Everywhere we visited special events commemorated the importance of this war.


  2. Thanks so much for this, Anna. I had forgotten that the plaster models are housed here. I’ve not yet been to Vimy although I want to — I could more easily get to Ottawa though. On Sunday July 26th, 1936, my father wrote home from France to my older brothers on special postcards illustrating aspects of the Vimy memorial dedicated that day as he and other “pilgrims” attended. On one card he wrote “You will notice the Vimy post mark which will always prove that your Daddy was actually there at this tremendous occasion”. Allward’s work and that of the stone carvers is wonderful. I was grateful to Urquhart for her novel. I’ve got Dad’s special old photo album with his record of that trip, the 1936 Vimy Pilgrimage. (He went because of his WWI service — I also still have his tiny wartime pocket diary with its notation about experiencing the armistice on Nov 11th, 1918.) I was a late child, born when Dad was 51, so I’ve been able to have this personal link to that long ago time. Dad passed on to us that feeling of how special that memorial and Allward’s images are.


    • Linda, you are indeed fortunate to have your Dad’s wartime diary and this special connection to the the Vimy Memorial. Although I have no personal connection to Allward’s work but hope to visit the Vimy Memorial someday in the future – such an achievement of its time!


  3. Hi Anna, As usual great photography!!!! I was surprised at the ‘content’ of the molds. Being a WW I memorial, I had expected statues in the forms of soldiers. These religious forms are so lovely though!


    • The sculptures may appear religious but when you stand in front of them you can’t help but be overcome with emotion. Pain, loss of life and all the emotions one experiences when countless lives are lost are conveyed in each figure.


  4. Judithkh on said:

    Excellent photography and narrative, Anna. I so appreciate seeing these lovely photos and learning that the plaster models have been preserved. Thank you for pursuing them and photographing them those of us whom have not yet seen them for ourselves.


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