The Military Museums

Molly Lamb Bobak

Molly Lamb Bobak had an interest in art from an early age.

Molly Lamb Bobak

Molly Lamb Bobak had an interest in art from an early age.

Molly Lamb Bobak

She attended the Vancouver School of Art and shortly after graduating, she joined the CWAC (Canadian Women’s Army Corps). Molly became Canada’s first official female war artist in 1944. She was a unique war artist, with some of her work centering on the multi-cultural nature of the Canadian war effort.

She spent much of her time in Holland and many of her paintings focus on crowds, as she liked the random quality of them. Her paintings are a unique portrayal of the women’s experiences of the Second World War, both in Canada and in Europe.

Early Life

Molly Lamb Bobak was born in 1920 on Lulu Island outside Vancouver, B.C. She had an early connection with Canadian artists since her father, Harold Mortimer-Lamb, was a friend and supporter of A.Y. Jackson and Fred Varley who visited the family on occasion. Between 1938-41 she attended the Vancouver School of Art where teacher Jack Shadbolt had a profound influence on her.

In 1942 she joined the Canadian Women's Army Corp (CWAC) and became the first woman to be named as an official Canadian War Artist during the Second World War.

She was sent overseas after the ceasefire in 1945 and as she recalled, "I was fortunate enough not to see the horrors of war. When I did go overseas I saw a lot of flattened and burned out buildings. Those images were all over the place... I think the best thing I got out of those years was the terrific feeling I have for my own country and the wonderful people who live in it."

From the beginning of her army career she kept a diary that provides a unique visual record of the CWAC life during the war that spanned from November 1942 to September 1945. Her diary was published in 1992 titled Double Duty: Sketches and Diaries of Molly Lamb Bobak, Canadian War Artist.

As observed by fellow war artist and former National Gallery of Canada director, Charles Comfort, in the foreword to Double Duty, he said, "For those of us directly involved in the war, the experience remains an unforgettable 'time out of time' even today, when that great conflict recedes into ever-deepening perspective. Molly Lamb's diary will awaken memories for many who were there, as well as stimulate interest among those in the generations that have followed."

In 1960 she and her husband Bruno moved to Fredericton. That proved to be the start of a lasting relationship of love for the city and the province and the genesis of what was to become their extraordinary contribution to the visual arts scene in the city.

Besides her war diary, Bobak has captured nature's floral beauty in Wildflowers of Canada: Impressions and Sketches of a Field Artist, published in 1983.

Molly received Honorary Doctorates from Mount Allison University, the University of New Brunswick and Saint Thomas University. She was presented with the Order of Canada in 1995 and was an initial recipient of the Order of New Brunswick in 2002. Molly passed away on March 2, 2014. There were 32 official war artists in the Second World War, and she was the last surviving member.

Go To Top