Born at Wawelowka, Poland, son of Joseph and Bronislava Bobak, he came to Canada with his parents in 1925 and they settled in Ontario. His interest in art was kindled at the age of 13 while he attended Saturday morning classes under Arthur Lismer in Toronto. He studied at the Central Technical School in Toronto under Carl Schaefer and Elizabeth Wyn Wood (1939-42). He then joined the Royal Canadian Engineers as sapper in January of 1943 and following his training he won first prize in the Canadian Army Art Exhibition at the NGC (1944). He went overseas in April of 1944 and was employed as a service artist until late August then Official War Artist from October 1944 until July of 1946. Held the rank of captain. He painted in England and in North West Europe particularly with the activities of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division. He deposited around 105 paintings and drawings with the Canadian War Collection. One of these works, an impressive water colour Carrier Convoy after Dark (1944) with Canadian troop carriers moving forward after dusk through the Normandy landscape (scene etched by a blue night sky), appeared in both A Terrible Beauty (1977) by Heather Robertson and in McCormick and Perry’s Images of War (1992). While a war artist, Bruno met in 1945, Molly Lamb, also an official war artist, and they later married and settled in Vancouver. Bruno then taught at the Vancouver School of Art as instructor and head of the Design Dept. (1947-57). Both Bobaks continued painting on their own. At that time Bruno was absorbed with serious glimpses of humanity. He also worked at pottery, metal work, furniture making and textile printing. In painting he was recognized as an expressionist. He worked in oils, water colours, and also produced woodcuts and pen-and-ink drawings. He also focused on flowers and landscapes. He went east for two years working as a designer for the Canadian Govt. Exhibition Commission in Ottawa (1946-48). He did a mural in concrete (29 ft. x 10 ft.) for the Vancouver School of Art which he completed in 1952 using as motifs shapes from the beach (fish, crabs, driftwood) and shapes from land and sky (flowers, reptiles, birds, seed pods, snow flakes). He had chosen these forms because he felt they were basic subjects for West Coast artists. In 1956 he took a journey with his wife, covering eight thousand miles. They stopped at various locations to sketch, ending up in New York. In 1957 he was awarded a Canadian Govt. Overseas Senior Fellowship. He studied at The City and Guilds of London, Eng. (1957-58). His work was selected for exhibit at the Canadian Pavilion at Brussels, Belgium in 1959. His painting up to then had been essentially done in water colours in browns, blacks and greys. He had done some paintings in oils as a war artist. He wanted to expand his work in oils and use more colour in a freer manner. He was by now very much influenced by the French Impressionists, especially Monet, and the English painter Joseph Turner. By 1962 he had realized his goal and completed sketches of London and elsewhere which he exhibited in U.K. galleries. Some of his London sketches were reproduced in Weekend Magazine (1962) which displayed his greater use of colour in a style which was a combination of expressionism and impressionism. He also did several paintings with pastel on paper in this same style; one was acquired by the NGC in 1962 entitled A Field of Poppies. He continued with his glimpses of humanity making himself and his wife the subject of an expressionistic triptych painted in brilliant colour entitled The Seasons referring to the seasons of their life with the centre panel (the largest) showing them as young lovers kissing under the shade of, perhaps, apple trees. He had no desire to yield to the trendy style of non-objective and abstract painting which was so prevelant in the Western world. Continuing in his own path he has done many attractive large and colourful canvases of landscapes and city scenes. In 1960 the Bobaks moved to New Brunswick where Bruno became resident artist of U. of N.B. The following year he became Director of the Art Centre at the University. He did a wood mural for the N.B. Centennial Bldg. in Fredericton (1967); a metal mural for the Atlantic Pavilion, Expo 67, Mtl (1967); metal mural for the Engr. Bldg. UNB (1967); painting for Campus Gates series by Canada Post (1982). The Bobaks remained in New Brunswick and settled in Fredericton where they continue their lives as artists. They have two grown children Alexander and Anny. Bruno’s solo shows include: New Design Gal., Van. (1956); Galerie Agnès Lefort, Mtl. (1956); Greenwich Gal., Tor. (1956); Robertson Gal., Ott. (1959) (1966); Waddington Gal., Mtl. (1959) (1965); Isaacs Gal., Tor. (1960); Roberts Gal., Tor. (1961) (1964) (1967) (1971) (1975) (1986); Beaverbrook Art Gal., Fred., N.B. (1961) (1971) (1983); Leeds City Art Gallery, Eng. (1962); City of Bristol Art Gal., Eng. (1962); Kaplan Gallery, Lond., Eng. (1962); S. Lond. Art. Gal. (1963); UNB (1963) (1978); Kinstforening, Oslo, Norway (1963); Bergen, Norway (1964); Commonwealth Inst., Lond. (1964); AEAC, Queen’s U. (1965); Yellow Door Gal., Wpg. (1965); Western Art Circuit (1965-66); Lofthouse Gal., Ott. (1966); Little Gallery, New Westm., BC (1967); Sir Geo. Wms. U., Mtl. (1967) (1980); N.B. Museum, Fred. (1977) and others. He is represented in the following collections: AGGV, Vic., BC; U. of BC, Van.; VAG, Van.; Norman MacK. AG, Regina; WAG, Wpg.; PL & AG, Lond., On.; AG Hamilton, On.; AGO, Tor.; H.H., U. of T., Tor.; AEAC, Kingston; NGC, Ott.; CCAB, Ott.; Dept. Ex. Aff., Ott.; SGWU (Concordia), Mtl.; CIL, Mtl.; Beaverb. AG, Fred., NB; Owens Mus., Mt. Allison U., Fred., NB; UNB, Fred.; Dalhousie U., Hal., NS; Confed. Centre, Charlott., PEI; Leeds Art Coll. Fund, Eng.; Leeds City AG, Eng.; S. Lond. AG, Lond., Eng.; Vic. & Alb. Mus., Lond., Eng.; Detroit Inst. of Art, Mich., USA; Kunstforening, Oslo, Norway; and others. He received an Hon. D. Litt., UNB (1986). Member: CSPWC (1946); Assoc. BSCA (1950) Mbr. (1951-63); CPE (1952); CSGA (1952); CGP (1957); ARCA (1959-63) RCA (1973).
Colin S. MacDonald
A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, volumes 1-8 by Colin S. MacDonald, and volume 9 (online only), by Anne Newlands and Judith Parker
National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada
Art Gallery of Toronto (1933-37)
Central Technical School, Toronto
He served in the Canadian Army (1943-46), and was an official war artist (1944-46). He taught at the Vancouver School of Art (1947-57), and was the artist in residence at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, (1960-61), and the director of the Art Centre there (1962-88).
Royal Canadian Academy of Arts