Teacher Resources

William MacDonnell

Mined Churchyard, 1995

William MacDonnell is interested in how we remember and forge our history. He is, of course, forging that history through his work.

"Lest We Forget," is used by the Royal Canadian Legion as a phrase to commemorate the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month when the last guns of the First World War fell silent. This was the war to end all wars. The poppy is another symbol the Legion uses to forge history and to help us to remember.

Through this painting, MacDonnell presents the irony of a peaceful, religious setting associated with solace and prayer with the knowledge of the horror that happened there during the war. Looking at this painting, would we know about the war that took place there? Is Mac Donnell's approach different than other war artist's work?

Essential Questions

  • What approaches have other Canadian war artists employed to remember and forge our history of wars?


  • Where does Lest We Forget come from?
  • Why is it important to have a context or back-story in looking at some artwork?
  • What is the significance of the names of angels in MacDonnell's painting?
  • Who was the only Canadian female war artist?
  • Why is it important that we document and remember our personal and family histories?

Suggested Activity

  • Compare and contrast this work to the painting Ablain St. Nazaire by William Beatty.
  • Both were Canadian war artists. Both painted churches.
  • Consider the mood, colours, content of each work.


Additional Activities

  • Cross Curricular: Language Arts 30-1, The Wars by Timothy Findley