Tribute to Edith Cavell in art form

·3 min read

Local artist Jennifer Ottaway has another creation to add to the list of artwork that she has created over the past few months.

Ottaway painted a panel in honour of British nurse Edith Cavell.

The work is on display outside the Anglican Church and is titled ‘Edith Cavell Dancing in the Wildflower Meadows.’

Ottaway painted it on the back of a four-by-eight-foot sheet of plywood, which was also used for a painting of King Wenceslas done in December.

Both panels tell a story through a variety of images.

“I wanted something joyful to put on the panel and something connected to the Anglican Church,” Ottaway said.

“It’s her, it’s the mountain, it’s the meadows and the lake and the Angel Glacier.”

Ottaway was intrigued by why Cavell had a mountain named after her and did some research, which is on display under the panel:

“Born in England in 1865 to parents Anglican Reverend (Frederick) Cavell and Louisa Sophia Warming. After working as a governess for several years she decided to become a nurse. Schooled in London Hospital, she was offered the opportunity to take charge of a clinic and teaching hospital for nurses in Brussels. There, Cavell helped raise the standards and status of the nursing profession.

“When World War I broke out in 1914 she persuaded her students to aid all wounded soldiers that came through their hospital despite their nationality - this in German-occupied Belgium. Cavell’s war efforts soon progressed to aiding troops escaping to neutral territory. Rumours circulated that German soldiers were shooting those assisting the Allied troops, but Cavell ignored them, reasoning that, ‘We shall be punished in any case, whether we have done much or little, so let us go ahead and save as many of these unhappy men as possible.’

“It is believed that Cavell helped over 250 men to escape. Arrested, Cavell was sent to prison and shot for the crimes she neither denied nor did she plead for mercy. ‘Standing as I do in view of God and Eternity, I realize that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.’ International outrage broke at the news of Edith Cavell’s death in 1915. In England she was mourned as national heroine. That same year the Government of Canada named an impressive mountain in Jasper National Park in her honour.”

Ottaway is a photographer, a painter, a portrait artist and an illustrator. She has written short stories, as well as a memoir not yet published. She was responsible for the renegade flower beds in town, planting flowers in the empty receptacles last year.

Art has been a part of her life since she was a wee one.

“As a kid I tried anything artistic - such as playdough,” Ottaway said.

“I started with simple things and worked up to paintings, sculptures, waving, drawing, crafts with the Girl Guides, flower arranging, anything.”

There’s inspiration anywhere for someone with an artistic eye.

“I’ll be travelling and I’ll see something and I’ve got to stop and take a closer look,” Ottaway said.

“Things catch your eye, stay in your memory and they influence the way you look at things.”

Ottaway poured her heart into the panel that honours Cavell.

“We must not let her example and her memory die,” she said.

Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh