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October 28, 2020

Posted in News Releases

Canada Post salutes country’s unofficial first woman battlefield artist

Remembrance Day stamp issue features the work of Mary Riter Hamilton

October 28, 2020

Posted in News Releases

OTTAWA – Today Canada Post released a new stamp issue featuring Mary Riter Hamilton’s Trenches on the Somme (1919) in honour of the painter, who was unofficially Canada’s first woman battlefield artist.

Born in Teeswater, Ontario, and widowed in her 20s, Riter Hamilton studied art in Toronto, Berlin and Paris, and received critical acclaim for her first cross-Canada exhibition in 1911-12. Living in Victoria and Vancouver during the First World War, she applied to the Canadian government to be sent to the frontlines to document Canada’s military efforts but was refused based on her gender. In 1919, she received a commission from the Amputation Club of British Columbia (now The War Amps) to paint the battlefields of France and Belgium for its veterans’ magazine, The Gold Stripe.

Arriving in Europe in March 1919, she travelled independently to the sites of Canadian battles such as Vimy Ridge, Ypres and the Somme. Over two and a half years, she produced more than 300 paintings, drawings and etchings, capturing the destruction and the reconstruction efforts. She often painted in the cold, travelled long distances on foot, and had inadequate shelter and little food or money.

Commended for her talent and courage, she was awarded France’s Ordre des Palmes académiques in 1922. She remained in Europe, supporting herself by painting silk scarves, one of which won a gold medal at the Exposition internationale des arts décoratifs et industriels modernes in Paris in 1925. Returning to Canada that year, she found little interest in her paintings and donated most of her work to the Public Archives of Canada (now part of Library and Archives Canada).

In later years, her health suffered, due in part to her arduous living conditions on the battlefields. She died on April 5, 1954.

The booklet of 10 Permanent™ domestic rate stamps is the work of Montréal-based graphic designer Réjean Myette and was printed by Canadian Bank Note. An Official First Day Cover is also available.

Stamps and collectibles are available at Follow these links for high-resolution images and for more information in Details magazine (or click here).

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