Lesser Known Canadian Artists

by FVWS Member, Denis Halliwell

Let’s Look at Some Lesser Known Canadian Painters

Ask who is the most famous Canadian painter and you may hear many names…Jean-Paul Riopelle (1923-2002) is said to be one such painter. Now ask who the least well-known Canadian painter is. The answer is up for grabs. But there are reasons to remember such mildly forgotten heroes who wielded paints and brushes over the years. Some of these artists have influenced other Canadian artists and art lovers the world over. Let’s put together some brief biographies of such painters along with commentary on their lives and the art they made. Let’s not forget those painters who truly deserve to be remembered.

Here we consider Molly Lamb Bobak (1920-2014)

How about Molly Lamb Bobak? How many of you know her work? Molly (1920-2014) was born on Lulu Island, part of Richmond, 25 minutes from Vancouver. Molly’s mother, Mary Williams, encouraged her daughter’s interest in art and she enrolled in the Vancouver School of Art (Gewurtz, Michelle, Molly Lamb Bobak: Life & Work, The Canadian Art Library, 2019). Since Molly grew up during WWII and like many young people at that time was influenced by that war. After attending art school, she enrolled in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps and was appointed the first woman war artist (1942-1946). Several of her paintings from this period were purchased by the Canada War Museum.

Maureen Korp (Korp, Maureen, The Legacy of Canada’s First Female War Artist, The Epoch Times, March 28, 2014) provides a glimpse into the life and art of a war-time artist working close to the front lines. Just what can a painter do with her art that photographs cannot show? Historians may value the work of war artists because a painter creates things that can’t be captured by other means of recording. It takes an analysis of a scene to be painted and then decisions made what to include. Picasso says it this way: “The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from the earth, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.” Molly’s war art tends to be the human side of war. She paints heroes like a woman in uniform serving pastries in a mess hall while battles rage. What brought Bobak to Europe during the war? Maybe her art calmed her fears of what war means. Maybe she wanted to paint rainbows to help her deal with misery? After the war, Bobak returned to Canada and resumed her painting career.

You can review many of Molly Bobak’s paintings here.

Bobak-London Pub

London Pub, oil on canvas, 1962, Gallery 78, Fredericton, NB

Bobak-Saint John

Saint John, oil on board,
Canadian Art Price Index

Content submitted by FVWS member, Denis Halliwell.
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