World War II Art: Dieppe Raid by Charles Fraser Comfort


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1. What aspect of war, or event, does this piece of art depict?

This piece of art depicts the Canadians involvement during the raid of the French channel port of Dieppe on August 19, 1942. As most of Europe was under German occupation the Allies wanted to see if they could capture an enemy port and hold it for any length of time as to get a foothold into Europe. This was a frontal assault of 6000 soldiers, mostly Canadians. This was a direct assault from the sea in daylight without any preliminary bombardment. The Dieppe port was especially fortified and responded with intense machine gun fire. Half of the attackers were killed and the rest evacuated or were taken prisoner. No objectives were really met during this raid and t ended in a total failure. But the Canadians were courageous in trying such a task and the whole thing offered valuable lessons for the future victories for the allies regarding port attacks. This piece of art shows the Canadian soldiers in the midst of making their way towards the German fort. The tanks would of been from the 14th Tank regiment from Calgary who were not very effective due to the timing they were deployed at and the rough terrain but were successful in helping soldiers escape. This artwork shows the bravery of these soldiers and the immense task they were up against.

Lyons, Michael J. World War II: A Short History: Second Edition. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall Inc., 1994.

2. Who created this piece of art?

Charles Fraser Comfort a distinguished Canadian painter was born in Edinburgh Scotland July 22, 1990. In 1912 he moved to Winnipeg with his family. Comfort began night classes at Winnipeg School of Art and then went on to study art at the Art Students League in New York City under Robert Henri. In 1923 he returned to Canada married then established a commercial studio. From 1935 to 1938 Charles Fraser Comfort worked as a commercial illustrator and a teacher at the Ontario College of Art and Design, he also taught at University of Toronto from 1938 to 1960. In the Second World War Comfort served in Europe as an official war artist; after the war he went back to teaching at University of Toronto and working as an artist. From 1960 to 1965 Charles Fraser Comfort was the Director of the National Gallery of Canada; after his term ended he resumed painting. During his time after the war he studied seventeenth-century Dutch mast techniques in the Netherlands, contributed articles to Canadian journals and published his war memoir. Charles Comfort was a member of many art societies including the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour, Canadian Society of Graphic Art, Ontario Society of Artists, Canadian Group of Painters and Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

3. Where was this piece of art created?

The Dieppe Raid, painted by Charles Fraser Comfort, was created in 1946. Charles Comfort painted this painting in his studio that he resided at in Toronto, Canada. His studio was next to the studio of A. Y. Jackson in the Studio Building. This building was built in 1914 by R. Robertson and Sons. Eden Smith designed it and it was financed by Lauren Harris and Dr. James MacCallum. This building was a non-profit facility; this means that the cost of rent for the building was enough to only cover the expenses of the building such as electricity. This building was the earliest purpose built artist studio in Canada. The purpose of this building was to create a place for young Canadians, who would develop distinctly Canadian art, to live and work. The studio had six studio spaces and a working shack in the yard. It was three stories high and made of concrete and red brick. This building is located at 25 Severn Street, Toronto, Ontario. The renowned group of painters, known as the Group of Seven, originated from this building. It was designated a national historic site of Canada in 2005. The painting of the Dieppe Raid is now located in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario.

4. For what purpose was this art created?

This art was created to reconstruct and capture the attack and events that took place at the Raid on Dieppe, France, on August 19, 1942. This art illustrates the battle between the Canadian and German soldiers as it existed through the eyes of Charles Comfort. The artist gives his interpretation to the gruesome battle which can clearly be visualized like a photograph. Comfort illustrates the high amount of Canadian casualties and massive gun fire that took place on the beachfronts. As you can see, there is a large amount of smoke and haze in the discoloured sky, a large amount of dead bodies, massive explosions and a clear cut enemy line that
depicts the difficulties and struggles of the battle for the advancement of ground. Charles comfort painted this art piece to demonstrate the harsh reality of battle and the great investment Canadians had with the many losses that they incurred. This artwork helps to visually record the battle that took place and represent the environment and emotional intensity at this moment in time. The creation of this artwork, like many others, is to be able to pass on and share the experiences and emotions that were involved in such a moment so they will not be forgotten.

Canada At War. “The Dieppe Raid, August 1942.” Last updated November,
Government of Canada. “The Dieppe Raid.” Last Updated February, 2014.
National Gallery of Canada. “Charles F. Comfort.” Last updated 2014.

5. What does this piece of art tell us about the experience of war?

The painting, “Dieppe Raid,” by Dr. Charles Fraser Comfort was painted in 1946. This painting, gives an insight into the difficult experience of war through the dangerous position of the Allied Forces in 1942. At the time, Europe was becoming a Nazi dominated society and this painting depicts the true trials faced by the Allied Forces. This is also depicted in the colors of the painting. The piece exhibits dark colors which contrast in the middle to a yellow that creates a dark picture towards the war. This painting depicts accurately what occurred during the Dieppe Raid because it shows the soldiers and their tanks and weapons as tiny images compared to the rest of the painting. This accurately describes the extremely difficult task that the Canadian troops had. They were given an incredibly difficult assignment, which was to land on the beach against the well protected enemy. This is also shown through the great deal of explosives that can be seen to expand down the beach. This piece paints the picture of war through a realistic point of view. The color and the images portray how small the Allied forces were compare to the Nazis, who were a strong and powerful force at this time.

6. How accurate is this depiction of war?

The painting depicts an amphibious landing on White Beach, which was a part of the Dieppe Raid in northern France. Many of the details on the painting are depicted accurately. We can see the transport ships on the shore that carried troops and equipment. There is also aerial combat taking place, which played a large part in operations during World War II. The beach is also heavily fortified to slow down advances and trap soldiers so that they would be left in the open and vulnerable to enemy fire. However, one error in the painting is the fact that tanks can be seen together with the infantry. During the actual attack the tanks were held back while the infantry were left alone on the beach taking heavy fire. Although very detailed with its surroundings and depiction of warfare, the painting does not accurately portray the actual Dieppe Raid itself.

How does your piece of art further our understanding of Canadian history?

This piece of art helps us further our understanding of Canadian history because it depicts an important battle our
soldiers were involved in during the Second World War. This piece shows the monumental disadvantage our troops were at during this battle and the difficult conditions they were faced with. Though not a completely accurate depiction of tank use during the battle, it enlightens us that tanks were used in port attacks from the sea. Though ultimately a failure this battle demonstrates the bravery of our troops and the many lessons learned for the Allies regarding port attacks, especially during the D-Day invasion a couple years later. This artwork helps to depict the chaos and massive Canadian investment and loss of lives that the Battle of Dieppe can be attributed with. This piece commemorates those sacrifices.


Posted on March 21, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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