ARCHIVED - NA - Traces of War - Mary Riter Hamilton
Mary Riter Hamilton - Traces of War
In her own words
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Mary Riter Hamilton in front of her quonset hut with her dog, France,
ca. 1919-1922  Courtesy Ron Riter

Mary Riter Hamilton in front of her quonset hut with her dog, France,
ca. 1919-1922 Courtesy Ron Riter

MARKINGS

“I came out because I felt I must come, and if I did not come at once it would be too late, because the battlefields would be obliterated, and places watered with the best blood of Canada might be only names and memories. Of course the great facts of the war would remain, and I could add nothing but my pictures to the essential tragedy and meaning of it all, but it seemed to me that something was in danger of being lost.

I do not think I could re-live that time; and I know that anything of worth or anything of beauty which may be found in the pictures themselves reflects only dimly the visions which came then; the visions which came from the spirit of the men themselves.”

[Letter from Mary Riter Hamilton to Dr. Arthur Doughty, Dominion Archivist, 27 July 1926]

DISFIGUREMENT

“It is fortunate that I arrived before it was too late to get a real impression. The first day I went over Vimy [Ridge], snow and sleet were falling, and I was able to realize what the soldiers had suffered. If as you and others tell me, there is something of the suffering and heroism of the war in my pictures it is because at that moment the spirit of those who fought and died seemed to linger in the air. Every splintered tree and scarred clod spoke of their sacrifice. Since then, nature has been busy covering up the wounds, and in a few years the last sign of war will have disappeared. To have been able to preserve some memory of what this consecrated corner of the world looked like after the storm is a great privilege and all the reward an artist could hope for.”

[Mary Riter Hamilton, in an interview with Frederick G. Falla, The McClure Newspaper Syndicate for release September 10, 1922]

VESTIGES

“I feel that it is fortunate that I arrived before it is too late to get a real impression. The changes are taking place rapidly and even in the short time I have been here I can see a great change. In another few months there will be very little trace of war... There is nothing in any way amusing about seeing this devastated country; indeed it is one tragedy after another.”

[Mary Riter Hamilton, letter to The Gold Stripe, May 1919]

REMNANTS

“I made up my mind that where our men went under so much more dreadful conditions I could go, and I am very proud to have been able even in a small way to commemorate the deeds of my country men, and especially if possible to lend a helping hand to the poor fellows like those of the Amputation Club who will be life-long sufferers from the war.”

[Mary Riter Hamilton, in an interview with Frederick G. Falla, The McClure Newspaper Syndicate for release September 10, 1922]

RECONSTRUCTION

“I go to Europe in order to paint the scenes where so many of our gallant Canadians have fought and died, because this can be only done successfully before the reconstruction of France and Belgium has really started... there is no doubt about the magnificent ability of our fighting men and I fairly ache to get to the scene of their heroic exploits.”

[Mary Riter Hamilton, interview with Anne Anderson Perry, Western Women's Weekly, February 1, 1919]


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