“Trenches on the Somme, 1919” Mary Riter Hamilton

When I first posted, in March 2020,  “Mary Riter Hamiton: painting no man’s land”, I based my autobiographical fiction and factual info on a variety of sites/sources. I didn’t come across any references to Professor Irene Gammel, her research, any other publications by her, or her biography I Can Only Paint: The Story of Battlefield Painter Mary Riter Hamilton. (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2020). Granted, the I wrote the post in March, the book might not have been published until December. But often when a scholar is working on a particular topic/person, they will publish academic and non-academic pieces prior to the release of the definite publication. It may be a reflection of how I did the research, not on Gammel’s scholarship.

The publication I referenced was Kathryn A. Young and Sarah M. McKinnon, No Man’s Land: The Life and Art of Mary Riter Hamilton (University of Manitoba Press, 2017). As reviewed by Joanna Dawson for the Canada’s History website in September 2018.

McGill-Queen’s Press’s webpage for the Gammel book suggests: “The first reliable account of Hamilton’s impressions of Canada’s most haunting sites of conflict, I Can Only Paint captures with detail and sensitivity an experience that defined her life and recovers a body of work that stands as a unique and enduring portrait of the effects of the Great War.”

The Dawson review of the Young and McKinnon book suggests: “Building on the work of their late colleague Angela Davis, Young and McKinnon have written a rich biography that is deserving tribute to Mary Riter Hamilton. Their research is thorough and uses a variety of sources — including Hamilton’s artwork, official and personal correspondence, newspaper articles, and exhibit reviews and critiques — to piece together her life. The book includes colour prints of some of Hamilton’s best-known work.”

According to the text accompanying the Canadian Radio Broadcasting radio show, Ideas which interveiwed Gammel [a professor of art, literature and culture at Ryerson University in Toronto (and others), Gammel said “I was drawn to the story of a strong woman whose story had not yet been told, or not yet been sufficiently or accurately told.” Gammel is said to have followed in Hamilton’s footsteps on the battlefields for a decade doing research for the 2020 publication.

I don’t know if this is dualing University Presses, or if the Young and McKinnon work is flawed (or only covers a portion of Hamilton’s art and life), although both publications appear to have used similar and overlapping primary sources such as diaries, letters, newspaper articles, exhibition catalogues and Hamilton’s paintings. Gammel has been to the various battlefields commemorated in Hamilton’s paintings and if the chronology is correct, was doing this “field research” before the Young and McKinnon book was published.

If you are interested in Gammel’s Hamilton, see:

CBC Ideas text: Mary Riter Hamilton, Canada’s 1st female battlefield artist, helped the country ‘grieve mass loss’

and broadcast link found on the same webpage