This is a fascinating combination:
- A new movie about a British artist (Sir Alfred Munnings), co-starring the heart-throb who played Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey, and a connection to Canada’s Lord Beaverbrook, the legendary press baron who hired artists to chronicle Canadians in battle in World War I.
The movie – Summer in February, which opened in New York this weekend – is about the bohemian beginnings of artist A.J. Munnings (right: Dominic Cooper), Florence Carter-Wood, the aspiring artist who became his wife (Emily Browning), and aristocrat Gilbert Evans (Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey), third wheel in the romance. The movie and its connections provide a unique opportunity. (Image source: still from the movie)
The film gives us a chance to revel in the story of a passionate love triangle and to explore the world of Edwardian art. It also opens the door to a glimpse of the massive artistic effort put into creating a visual record of Canada’s presence during the First World War. That’s not because of the movie, set in an artist colony in pre-war Cornwall.
It’s because Munnings later was one of more than 100 artists and photographers recruited by Lord Beaverbrook to chronicle Canadian troops. The artists – who produced almost 1,000 works – included future Group of Seven members A.Y. Jackson, Frederick Varley, and Arthur Lismer. Munnings joined the Canadian War Memorials Fund art program in 1918 to paint the Canadian Cavalry Brigade and Canadian Forestry Corps.
Munnings painted this work while with the Canadian Cavalry Brigade. This is the charge against the Germans at Moreuil Wood, a work now held in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. Munnings began his career painting horses, village characters, hunting themes and landscapes. That experience perfecting horses became important, given that the cavalry was mounted.
Facebook page for Summer in February, here.
The Sir Alfred Munnings Art Museum, here.