Vimy Memorial Sculptures

The Defenders (detail)

The Defenders: Breaking the Sword

Created between 1925 and 1930 by Canadian sculptor Walter Allward, these plaster sculptures are the models for the figures on the Vimy Memorial in France. The memorial commemorates the 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge in which 3,598 Canadians died and more than 7,000 were wounded. The sculptures form part of the rich but little known military heritage to be found in the collections of the Canadian War Museum.

Sympathy for the Helpless

Sympathy for the Helpless

The memorial was Walter Allward's (1875-1955) most important commission. His design, selected from 160 others in a 1920 competition, took ten years to construct at a cost of $1.5 million. King Edward VIII unveiled it on July 29, 1936. Walter Allward's remarkable skill is particularly visible in the unique plaster models. Many still bear the marks of his fingers as he continued to work on the balance, form and surface of the figures as the plaster dried. The Canadian War Museum has 17 of Allward's plaster figures. They are half the size of the stone figures on the memorial itself.

Truth (detail)


In 1999, the delicate and time-consuming process of restoration began in conjunction with the touring exhibition Canvas of War. All seventeen figures have now been restored at a cost of $135,000.

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