History of the Canadian Forces Artists Program

The Canadian Forces Artists Program (CFAP) is the latest military art program of the Canadian Forces. The tradition began in 1916.

war artist at work

Canadian war art officially began with the creation of the Canadian War Memorial Fund. It commissioned and exhibited over 800 paintings, sculptures and prints from artists serving in the military. The Fund exhibited its work in 1919 in:

  • London
  • Toronto
  • Montreal
  • New York

These works are now in:

  • the Senate
  • the Canadian War Museum
  • the National Gallery of Canada

The Fund lasted until just after the end of the Great War (First World War).

The Second World War presented another chance to officially record in art the actions of those serving Canada. The Canadian War Records Program began in 1942. H.O. McCurry, Director of the National Gallery of Canada, chaired the Canadian War Artists' Committee in Ottawa. Vincent Massey, Canada's High Commissioner to London, headed the War Artists Overseas Control Committee in Britain.

The program lasted to the end of the war.

From 1968 to 1995, the Canadian Armed Forces Civilian Artists Program (CAFCAP) revived the legacy of the previous two programs. R.F. Wodehouse, Curator of War Art at the National Gallery of Canada, launched the CAFCAP. His goal was to ensure that Canada's military history would be captured in art following the Second World War.

The CAFCAP kept the same aim as previous war art projects. What was different is that it welcomed civilian artists to work alongside Canadian soldiers on both domestic and foreign operations.

Unfortunately, the CAFCAP lost its funding in 1995.

In 2001, we launched the Canadian Forces Artists Program (CFAP). The Chief of Defence Staff, General Maurice Baril, officially announced it on June 6.

The first three bodies of works were produced as a pilot project in 2002. The artists joined OP APOLLO in Afghanistan, Camp Mirage in Dubai and the Navy in the Arabian Sea and produced works of art that were officially unveiled on Thursday, November 13, 2003, at National Defence Headquarters, Ottawa by:

  • General R.R. Henault, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)
  • Dr. Serge Bernier, Director of History and Heritage (DHH)

Since then, the CFAP has been running on a biennial cycle with groups of artists working alongside Canadian service personnel throughout Canada and abroad. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the November 2021 Call to Artists was cancelled. Group 10 (originally planned for 2020-2021) will participate in 2020-2023. The cycle will recommence with the next competition closing on 30 November 2023 for Group 11 artists to participate in 2024-2025 (instead of 2023-2024).

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