About the Canadian War Memorials Fund

The Canadian War Memorials Fund was established in 1916 by a wealthy British-Canadian man named Max Aitken, popularly known as Lord Beaverbrook. Beaverbrook had been involved in British politics and built his wealth through various entrepreneurial endeavours including newspaper publishing [1].

Two years into the war, in 1916, Beaverbrook worked to establish the Canadian War Records Office largely through his own funds. The purpose of the War Records Office was to document and publish information related to Canada’s efforts in the war. Later that year, in November of 1916, Beaverbrook established a branch of the War Records Office called the Canadian War Memorials Fund with the goal of documenting Canada’s wartime experience in the form of art [2].

What inspired Beaverbrook to start the Canadian War Memorials Fund?

The 1915 Second Battle of Ypres, which was Canada’s first major wartime engagement, lacked visual documentation. At the time, the only form of visual documentation that existed were photographs and video recordings. However, photographs were limited and also ran the risk of fading over time. Staged wartime videos were also being created which undermined Canada's true wartime efforts. For these reasons, Beaverbrook’s War Memorials Fund set out to commission artists, both on the battlefront and the homefront, to preserve Canada’s memory of the Great War in the form of paintings.

The Canadian War Memorials Fund commissioned over 100 artists and produced nearly 1000 pieces of art. About one-third of the artists commissioned for the fund were Canadian [3]. This fund helped to kickstart the careers of many artists, including several from Canada’s very own Group of Seven such as A.Y. Jackson and Arthur Lismer. Ultimately, the endeavour successfully directed artistic talent towards honouring Canada’s experience and memory of the Great War. 


1.“Lord Beaverbrook,” Canadian War Museum, Canada and the First World War, 20 June 2008, https://www.warmuseum.ca/firstworldwar/history/after-the-war/history/lord-beaverbrook/. 

2. Laura Brandon, “Canada’s War Art,” Canadian War Museum blog, Dispatches: Backgrounders in Canadian MilitaryHistory, https://www.warmuseum.ca/learn/dispatches/canadas-war-art/#tabs.

3. Brandon, "Canada's War Art." 

About the Canadian War Memorials Fund