Bruno Bobak was born in Wawelowska, Poland in 1923. His family moved to Canada in 1925, and eventually settled in Toronto. In his early twenties he attended art school at Central Technical School, in Toronto. Bobak studied under future war artists Carl Schaefer and Charles Goldhammer, learning the technical details which Bobak believed were essential to his career as an artist.
Shortly after graduating, Bobak joined the Canadian Army, as part of the Engineers. He was made an Official War Artist after winning an art competition in 1944. His wife to be, Molly Lamb, placed second in the same competition. Bobak later reflected that becoming a war artist may have saved his life, as most of the company he was with were killed their first day in Europe.
Being a war artist was a job and meant painting everyday, “There was no way you could not paint, that was what you were paid to do.” Bobak’s paintings include scenes from France and Germany, as he traveled with the 4th Canadian Armoured Division. Humans were not the only casualties of war. As Bobak told author Joan Murray, “When soldiers were killed, they were immediately taken away and buried. Nobody bothered with dead animals.” The smell and sight of those animals was a shocking experience for Bobak.
From then on he was included in important exhibitions and galleries in Canada, the United States and abroad with opportunity to travel, explore, and broaden his creative experiences. It was during one such study trip to Europe that news arrived of his appointment as artist-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick in 1960.
It was to be only a one-year stay in Fredericton, but it turned out to be a lifetime. From 1962 until his retirement in 1987, Bruno Bobak was director of the UNB Art Centre. Bruno Bobak passed away on Sept 24th, 2012, in Saint John, New Brunswick at the age of 88.
Molly Lamb Bobak was born in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1920, the daughter of Harold Mortimer-Lamb and Alice Mary Price. She began her formal art training in 1938 at the Vancouver School of Art under the tutelage of Jack Shadbolt.
She joined the Canadian Women's Army Corps (CWAC) in 1942 rose to Lieutenant and became the first official female War Artist with the Canadian Army in Europe, 1945-46. She married fellow war artist Bruno Bobak in 1945. They have two children, Alexander (1946) and Anny (1957).
After the war, she and Bruno settled briefly in Ottawa and then returned to Vancouver in 1947 where she worked as an instructor in painting at the Vancouver School of Art. A French Government Scholarship in 1950 permitted her to study in Paris, and for the remainder of the decade she continued her artistic pursuits as well as teaching extensively and doing radio work.
In 1960 she moved to Fredericton, New Brunswick with Bruno who became Artist-in-Residence at the University of New Brunswick Art Centre.
A Canada Council Grant in 1961 allowed her to study in Norway before returning to take up permanent residency in Fredericton in 1962 where she devoted much of her time to teaching art through Extension Programs at UNB, workshops at the Banff School of Art, the Sunbury Shores Arts and Nature Centre, and the Alberta College of Art.
Patrick Cowley-Brown was born in Singapore in 1918, and moved with his family to Vancouver, British Columbia in 1926. By 1935 they had settled in Victoria and he attended the H. Faulkner-Smith School of Fine and Applied Art in Vancouver. During the Second World War, he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). He was sent overseas in February 1942, serving as a wireless air gunner. In 1944 the RCAF held an art competition, which Cowley-Brown entered and won. He was made an Official War Artist the same year.
As an Official War Artist, Cowley-Brown spent the rest of the war in Canada. His job was to record everyday life on the Canada-US Alaska Highway, newly built in 1942 by the USA for a supply route to military forces in Alaska, as well as the RCAF bases on the west coast of Canada. He would make field sketches of the activities he saw, and then send them to the Official Air Historian. Certain sketches were then selected to be made into larger paintings.
After the war ended, Cowley-Brown spent two years on a fishing boat. He painted scenes of the Canadian West Coast, as well as Gabriola Island, British Columbia. He also spent some time in Mexico studying art. In 1951, he began his career as a graphic designer for the Canadian Government and retired after twenty-seven years to work full time as an artist.
Leonard Brooks was born in London, England, in 1911. In 1912 his family immigrated to Canada and settled in North Bay, Ontario. For a short time he studied at Ontario College of Art in Toronto and taught at the Central Technical School. He spent a year in Europe, and joined the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve in May 1943.
During the Second World War he worked as a Petty Officer and designed war posters for the Naval Art Services. In 1944 he was made an Official War Artist.
He went on every ship he could, including corvettes, aircraft carriers and submarines. He painted the movements of naval ships off the coast of Scotland, and the activities of mine sweepers and motor torpedo boats in the English Channel for both the British and Canadian navies.
Leonard also recorded the daily activities of the sailors at war. At night he would go up on deck and sketch the patrollers. Life on board the ship was not always about fighting. He felt that daily activities helped to win the war, and that "There was never a dull moment, when they weren't on watch, or peeling potatoes, or doing something - They could be sunk in one moment, or blown up, or hit a mine."
Sketching on ships during rough weather was difficult, as Brooks explained in a letter to the National Gallery: "Forgive the scrawl. We are rolling along in great style and the wardroom table gives a kick every so often. I have managed to work a system of scribbling and taking notes on this kind of rough day. By devious ways I scribble a note or two on rough paper—dodge the spray and find my way below to redraw and fill in as much information as I can—dash up again and repeat the performance. It looks rather ridiculous but is very effective."
For Brooks war art was special in that it "doesn’t add up to great art, but these paintings, have left a legacy of truthful seeing and feeling, and caught for posterity some of the deep and terrible days of courageous despair and brave hopes for a better future".
After the war, Brooks remained a full time painter and obtained a grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs to study art in Mexico. He taught for several years in San Miguel de Allende, north of Mexico City.
Brooks has published a number of works on watercolour and oil painting techniques, and his skill as an artist has gained him worldwide recognition. Leonard Brooks passed away on November 20th, 2011 at the age of 100.
Robert Hyndman has been a professional artist for more than 65 years. Born in Edmonton in 1915, he began his career after graduating from the Toronto Central Technical School where he studied under two men who went on to become official war artists after the Second World War: Charles Goldhammer and Carl Schaefer. Like so many of his peers, Hyndman graduated and headed to Europe where he worked as a freelance illustrator and continued his studies at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, England.
After joining the Royal Canadian Air Force in June 1940, he learned to fly and then served as a flight instructor at Uplands Airport in Ottawa from 1941-43. In July 1943, Hyndman returned to England where he flew Spitfires over the English Channel. "I was terrified each of the 150 missions I flew over the English Channel. I was 25. I did not really understand why I was there. I didn't want to die. I wanted to live to get back to my painting."
In September 1944, Hyndman's passion for art was rewarded when he was appointed an official war artist. He loved painting people, and so portraits became the strength and bulk of his war art collection. Hyndman is mesmerized by the endless variety of human form and countenance. "You have got to feel the movement of the person," he explained in an interview with Legion Magazine.
The artist's work feels quick and intense with lots of contrast. Light splashes on his portraits and rich oils are spotlighted and move in from the shadow. Ironically, one of his old instructors, Carl Schaefer, became the subject of one of his many portraits.