Curator: Michelle Gewurtz
Molly Lamb Bobak (1920–2014) was fascinated by crowds. In her professional life as a working artist, which began c.1940 two years prior to her enlistment in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC), she generally sketched or painted everyday life. She is now best remembered as the first and only woman accredited by the federal government as an official Canadian war artist of WWII. During the long and illustrious career that followed, Molly Lamb Bobak became well known for two subjects in particular: crowd scenes and flower paintings. Featuring works from private and public collections, the exhibition highlights this artist’s unique ability to capture the pulse of crowds from a variety of vantage points.
Curated by Michelle Gewurtz, this exhibition is based on her publication Molly Lamb Bobak: Life and Work produced for the Art Canada Institute (ACI) and builds upon the foundations of the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art. The Firestone family’s collecting practices prioritized acquiring work from across the country and reflect shifts from representational painting to abstraction. Although she never fully embraced abstraction, her later crowd scenes exemplified by Rink Theme, Skaters (1969) reflect the varied influences that informed such shifts in modern Canadian art. Throngs of people captured in a multitude of situations—ranging from leisurely activities to student protests and formal gatherings—was a recurring theme for Molly Lamb Bobak throughout her sixty-year-long career which signals her commitment to representing modern life as it was lived in Canada in the twentieth century.
Molly Lamb Bobak: A Woman of the Crowd, installation view, Ottawa Art Gallery, 2019. Photo: Amity Bradbury