Molly Lamb Bobak

About the Artist

Molly Lamb Bobak was born in Vancouver, British Columbia in 1922. Her father, Harold Mortimer-Lamb, was a friend and supporter of A.Y. Jackson and Fred Varley, two members of the Group of Seven, who visited the family occasionally. Her father’s activities as an art  collectorTo collect is to accumulate objects. A collection is an accumulation of objects. A collector is a person who makes a collection. (Artlex.com)  and critic, and her mother’s love of the beauty of nature may have influenced her to pursue a career in the visual arts.

Lamb Bobak studied at the Vancouver School of Art (now the Emily Carr University of Art and Design) from 1938 to 1941. One of the teachers at the school, Jack Shadbolt, became a lifelong mentor. (Shadbolt is profiled in the Beyond Representation theme on ARTSask). She joined the Canadian Women’s Army Corps in 1942, working first as a waitress in an army canteen in Vancouver. For a time she studied  draftingDrawing sketches and plans of buildings, machinery, and manufactured products. Most contemporary drafting is done digitally, using computers, but for generations, draftsmen drew upon drafting tables, using such analog tools as rulers, T square, triangles, compasses, and French curves. (Artlex.com)  and then worked on set and costume designs for the Army Show in Toronto. From November 1942 to June 1945 Bobak also kept a unique war diary, a combination of handwritten musings and observations, with illustrations done with pencil, pen,  watercolourAny paint that uses water as a solvent. Paintings done with this medium are known as watercolours. What carries the pigment in watercolour (called its medium, vehicle, or base) is gum arabic. An exception to this rule is water miscible oil paints, which employ water as their solvent, but are actually oil paints. Colours are usually applied and spread with brushes, but other tools can also used. The most common techniques for applying watercolour are called wet-on-dry and wet-on-wet, along with the dry brush techniques dry-on-dry and dry-on-wet. Colours can be removed while still wet, to various degrees by blotting. Most watercolour painting is done on paper, but other absorbent grounds can also be employed. The papers most favored by those who paint with watercolour is white, very thick, with high rag content, and has some tooth. (Artlex.com)  and charcoal. Her diaries were published in book form in 1992 as Double Duty: Sketches and Diaries of Molly Lamb Bobak, Canadian War Artist.

During her posting in Toronto she met with A.Y. Jackson and showed him her illustrated war diary. Jackson was impressed by her work and recommended her to the committee on Canadian War Records. When she was appointed as Canada’s first woman war artist in June 1945 she wrote, “I very much wanted to be a war artist … when I did become one. I’m sure Jackson had something to do with it.”

By the time Lamb Bobak was posted overseas the war in Europe had ended, but she painted the aftermath of war in Holland. “I was fortunate enough not to see the horrors of war,” she recalled later. “When I did get overseas I saw a lot of flattened and burned out buildings. Those images were all over the place….” (Morse, 1996)

During this period Molly Lamb met and married fellow war artist Bruno Bobak. After their commissions as war artists ended the couple returned to Canada. Molly Lamb Bobak taught at the Vancouver School of Art, but in 1960 they moved to Fredericton, where they both taught at the University of New Brunswick.

Lamb Bobak’s work falls into two main categories: her elegant watercolours of flowers and her  expressionistA manner of painting, drawing, sculpting, etc., in which forms derived from nature are distorted or exaggerated and colors are intensified for emotive or expressive purposes.  Also, a style of art developed in the 20th century, characterized chiefly by heavy, often black lines that define forms, sharply contrasting, often vivid colors, and subjective or symbolic treatment of thematic material.   oilSlow-drying paint made when pigments are mixed with an oil, linseed oil being most traditional. The oil dries with a hard film, and the brightness of the colours is protected. Oil paints are usually opaque and traditionally used on canvas. They can have a matte, semi-gloss, or glossy finish. To look at examples of works in oil paints, see the articles under the names of every period from the Renaissance onward. (Artlex.com)  paintings. The MacKenzie Art Gallery mounted a major traveling  retrospectiveAn exhibition of work by a senior artist representing all the stages of the artist’s career.  exhibition of her work in 1993. She has received several honourary degrees and is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.


Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning