Artwork by Molly Lamb Bobak,  Highland Games, Fredericton

Molly Bobak
Highland Games, Fredericton

oil on canvas
signed lower right; signed, titled and inscribed “75” on the reverse
40 x 48 ins ( 101.6 x 121.9 cms )

Sold for $100,300.00
Sale date: November 19th 2019

Roberts Gallery, Toronto
The Collection of TC Energy, Toronto
Laura Brandon quoted in Allison Lawler, “Molly Lamb Bobak was first Canadian Woman Sent Overseas as War Artist,” The Globe and Mail, [online], March 14, 2014
Michelle Gewurtz, Molly Lamb Bobak: Life & Work [online publication], Art Canada Institute, Toronto, 2018, pages 63-65
A trailblazer for women in the arts in Canada, Bobak was an official war artist during the Second World War and was stationed in England. She often gravitated towards scenes of crowds as she was inspired by the victory parades of the Allied forces at the end of the war. Bobak returned to Canada and began teaching at the University of New Brunswick in the fall of 1960. She also organized classes throughout the province and on television, becoming a well-known and inspiring instructor. She and her husband Bruno became the centre of Fredericton’s art scene, with strong ties to artists in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. Bobak received several commissions and grew to be known for her paintings of official gatherings at the Legislature, City Hall, and other civic and public events in Fredericton and across the Maritimes.

The move to Fredericton supplied Bobak with new subject matter, and her work began to reflect a celebratory attitude towards public events and crowd scenes. “I think that it is an interest I have had ever since I was a kid,” she said. “I simply love gatherings, mingling... It’s like little ants crawling, the sort of insignificance and yet the beauty of people all getting together.” Her paintings depict people gathered in community spaces, often waving flags, cheering on sports teams in parades or commencement ceremonies. As her career progressed, she became increasingly concerned with movement and rhythm in her scenes of parades and sporting events, such as Highland Games, Fredericton. The large oil painting shows a parade of people in traditional Scottish dress, circulating through the streets during the Highland Games festival to celebrate the Scottish culture and heritage of New Brunswick. The energy and excitement of the scene is palpable; the viewer can almost hear the bagpipes being played as the band marches through the town. Scenes of modern urban life such as “Highland Games, Fredericton”, are considered to be Molly Bobak’s greatest artistic accomplishments, for they “achieve a careful balance of form, colour, and space, creating a clear, rationalized vision of moving scenes that are intentionally devoid of narrative.”

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Molly Lamb Bobak
(1922 - 2014) RCA

Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Molly Lamb Bobak was encouraged by her immediate and extended family to study art. Attending the Vancouver School of Art, she studied with fellow Canadian artists Jack Shadbolt and Charles Hepburn Scott.

The artist is well recognized for her work as an official War Artist—the first female artist to be appointed to the Canadian War Records art program during the Second World War. In 1942, Bobak enlisted as a draftswoman in the Canadian Women's Army Corps (CWAC), sketching and documenting the day to day activities of her fellow corps members. Having exhibited at the Canadian Army Art exhibition in 1944, she was awarded a prize for her work which lead to her appointment as a war artist between 1945 and 1946. First working in Canada, Bobak was sent overseas to England where she captured the crowded scenes and celebratory parades of Allied countries at the end of the war.

Returning from Europe, Molly Lamb taught at the Vancouver School of Art (1947-1950), the Vancouver Art Gallery (1954-1958), and the University of British Columbia (1958-1960). She married fellow war artist Bruno Bobak and moved to New Brunswick in 1960. The artist taught at the University of New Brunswick between 1960 and 1977, frequenting pubs, sporting events, parades, and public gatherings where she could continue to work and engage with the crowds.

In 1961, issue 71 of Canadian Art, a survey of 24 Canadian artists appeared, which included her photo, works, and comments written by Robert Fulford. Joan Lowndes in 1963 noted fewer flower pieces and more bustling cityscapes, outdoor activities and scenes with crowds of people in her work and linked her in this way to Pegi Nicol MacLeod. Making particular reference to her paintings of pubs she described this work in the following words “Only the figures in the foreground are silhouetted, in a heavier, more emphatic line and in new, high-keyed red orange. They recede into mere ovals, then into a haze of off-white and pink, which we readily translate into cigarette smoke, chatter, joviality . . . Molly Bobak powerfully projects an atmosphere”. This is perhaps the most essential quality of her work.

In 1973, Molly Lamb Bobak became a member of the Royal Canadian Academy and, in 1993, the Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan held a touring retrospective exhibition of her work.

Though she favoured watercolours, Bobak also worked in oils, conte and charcoal, working in an impressionistic style more concerned with capturing the essence of the scene rather than the details of her subject matter. Molly Lamb Bobak stopped painting at the age of 84 when her eyesight began to deteriorate and she passed away in 2014. Bobak's work can be found in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian War Museum, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Glenbow Museum, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, the Military Museums of Alberta, and the Art Gallery of Alberta.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume I: A-F", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1977