8/150: Charles Comfort – Canada at War

Some of the most popular Canadian paintings of the Second World War are the work of Charles Comfort, who served as an official war artist. But he was also a muralist, sculptor, teacher and administrator, including director of the National Gallery of Canada. (Above: Canadian Armour Passing Through Ortona, Canadian War Museum)

A Young Canadian, 1932

Comfort (1900-1994) is important partly because as director of the National Gallery in the 1960s, he appointed the first Curator of War Art and also ensured funds were made available for the proper storage and care of the collections. His painting The Hitler Line remains one of the most popular works on Canadians during World War II.

Comfort is also well known as a muralist, including for his eight works done in the 1930s overlooking the trading floor of the original Toronto Stock Exchange (now the Toronto Design Exchange).  He also created the stone frieze on the outside of the TSE building.

Charles Comfort’s full biography, at the National Gallery of Canada, here.

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There are 12 comments

  1. Resa

    Wow! The second piece, the man sitting is phenomenal! I love, love it. I have seen the TSE frieze many times, and always wondered who made it. It’s a bit iconic. I am definitely going to have a look at those murals, again.

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  2. suzannetevlin

    Canada is a bit trendy. In the 60s 70s 80s even 90s figurative artists really struggled. Even as a student at OCA, if you studied drawing & painting in the fine arts department, as opposed to the experimental department (called then the Annex), you were sort of ostracised and treated like you were totally “out of it”. I’m sure Comfort suffered from the same situation, in a way. He died in ’94 so would have spent his artistically mature years being out of style. But, as you point out, he was the director of the Nat’l Gallery. Probably one of the lasts examples of an artist being put in charge of such an important institution. It used to happen often – but now we have career arts management people. Too bad.

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  3. suzannetevlin

    Wasn’t Charles Comfort a wonderful artist! There’s an interesting picture of him painting on his portable easel in the trenches of WWI. Recently, whilst working on a lecture series about art during WWI, I dug up an interesting letter written by him to a Toronto women’s club, requesting, very gently, that they lend one of his paintings for an important retrospective…they turned him down. Some people do struggle with the concept art & artists. Being in the exhibition would have done the painting’s provenance no end of good.

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    1. J Walters

      I was surprised when I chose him how little information there really is on him, unlike so many other artists. I wonder if, as you say, it’s partly because he doesn’t appear to have done much exhibiting, if any.

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