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Gertrude Kearns’ The Art of Command


The NATO Council of Canada is thankful to Gertrude Kearns for her presentation on her exhibit The Art of Command.

Kearns is a leading active contemporary war artist; her artwork focuses on Somalia, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and most recently Afghanistan. She was with the Canadian Afghan Mission between 2005 and 2006. By being embedded in Afghanistan, she was given unprecedented access to the Canadian army command involved.

In The Art of Command, Kearns addresses the conflict in 46 portraits and posters on Canadian Major Generals, Lieutenant Generals, Brigadier Generals, Lieutenant Colonels, Colonels, and Majors. All 10 commanders featured in the exhibit sat for Kearns between 2006 and 2014.

Each portrait uses vivid colours and “share a common intensity, resoluteness and maturity.” The subjects are depicted with “assault rifles, sidearm holsters, notebooks, helmets, knee pads and load-bearing equipment.” In this way, Kearns is able to subvert the traditional war narrative. She notes in The Art of Command catalogue, the portraits “are meant to command attention and impart military ethos and the psychological and strategic rationale of modern defence sensibilities.” In the posters, she uses commentary, slogans, concepts, biographical details, quotations, military jargon, and acronyms to reflect on the challenges of conflict and war from the commander’s point of view.

Her art focuses on the complexities and consequences of military command in challenging situations, and the relationship between art and conflict. She has noted that her art is neither anti-war nor pro-war, but instead “about” war.

For more information on Gertrude Kearns and The Art of Command, see links below:

Gertrude Kearns The Art of Command



The Art of Command is on exhibit at the Fort York Visitor Centre until June 14.

We encourage everyone to visit this compelling exhibit for free this weekend, May 23-24, during Doors Open Toronto.


NATO Association of Canada
The NATO Association of Canada (NAOC) strives to educate and engage Canadians about NATO and its goals of peace, prosperity and security. The NAOC ensures Canada has an informed citizenry able to participate in discussions about its role on the world stage.