War Art Piece 10

Private Roy, Canadian Women’s Army Corps

(1946) Molly Lamb Bobek.

i. What aspect of war, or event, does this piece of art depict? (Robyn Kent)

In Private Roy, Canadian Women’s Corps, Molly Lamb Bobak depicts a different aspect of war. Here, Bobak paints us a portrait that shows off the personal side of war. The painting is of Private Roy in a canteen with her as the main focus as she sits behind a table with a few items of food in front of her. In the portrait she is sitting with her hands crossed with a more serious look on her face. By painting this, Bobak is showing the war in a more personal light, capturing the personalities of war and the role of women in the war rather than war itself. It provides us with a deeper look into the war, showing us a black female rather than a white male solider, as most of us think of when we think of war.

ii. Who created this piece of art? (Mark MacGillivray)

Molly Bobak created this painting. She was born in 1922 in Vancouver, British Columbia. As she was growing up, the well-known artist group, the Group of Seven, would often visit her family’s house due to her father being an art critic and art collector. Without a doubt these visits and her father’s taste in art awakened her love of painting. She studied at the Vancouver School of Art. She later enlisted in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps in 1942. After the war ended she traveled to London, England and met the artist Bruno Bobak, to whom she later married. They moved to Canada and worked selling paintings. Her work was so remarkable that she received invitations to go to France and to participate in artist exhibitions. She was eventually offered a teaching job at the University of New Brunswick which she accepted, leading Bobak and her husband to move to Fredericton where she still lives today. Bobak could be described as a genre painter, which is a kind of painting style the captures the everyday life of the places depicted in the painting. Most of her paintings are of groups of people she used to see at work during her time in the Women’s Army Corps.

iii. Where was this piece of art created? (Clancy Waite)

This piece of art was sketched in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Bobak sketched Private Roy multiple times in order to capture the proper image, before beginning her final copy of the painting. Halifax is a large port city that would have been important during the war for the purpose of shipping goods across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe.

iv. For what purpose was this art created? (Matt Finlay)

Molly Lamb Bobak created this piece of art to demonstrate a side of war other than the battlefield. Private Roy is portrayed serving behind a bar, a duty that fell upon many members of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps. Bobak captured a significant point in history and demonstrated the way that many women played their role in contributing to the war effort.

v. What does this piece of art tell us about the experience of war? (Chloe Betuik)

This piece of art by Molly Bobak tells us about the female contribution to the experience of war. It depicts Private Roy, a black female, in a canteen in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This shows how women contributed to the war effort despite their inability to take on combatant roles in the military. They often worked at non-combatant roles, enabling more males to fight. The Canadian Women’s Army Corps was important in the initial integration of women into the Canadian military, and this painting expresses the average role of the female in the Army during this period.

Dundas, Barbara and Dr. Serge Durflinger. The Canadian Women’s Army Corps, 1941-1946. The Canadian War Museum. http://www.warmuseum.ca/education/online-educational-resources/dispatches/the-canadian-womens-army-corps-1941-1946/

vi. How accurate is this depiction of war? (Aleen Stanton)

The painting of Private Roy may not portray the battlefield or the destruction of the front lines, but it does portray the human side of war. Bobak caught Private Roy at a specific moment in time, and the paining is an accurate personal portrait. Neither sugar-coated nor romanticized, the painting accurately represents the daily life of wartime. Furthermore, the painting reminds us that military service — and war in general — comes in many different shapes and sizes: Private Roy is not what would immediately come to mind when one thinks of the military (a black female bar-tender), but she and other members of the Women’s Army Corps are part of the story of the Second World War all the same.

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

This piece of art furthers our understanding of Canadian history in that it shows that Canada was not strictly the Anglo-Saxon country that it was often made out to be. The painting presents to the viewer one of the many ethnic groups that shaped Canada and shows in addition that women could make significant contributions to the war effort such as enlisting to the army, an act which is generally associated with white males. The painting of Private Roy helps us to re-examine our own preconceived ideas about World War Two as a “white man’s war.” It gives us a broader, more complete picture of the war while reminding us that Canadian history is the story of many individuals with diverse backgrounds. Although studying the battlefields of war is a large aspect of understanding our history, turning to the home front and observing what occurred here is also crucial. Bobak’s painting depicts the idea that World War two was not just a war for men, and that women played a significant role and were equally important. It is important to look upon the roles of women at home to truly understand how our country came together during this time of turmoil. This portrait goes behind the front lines and battle wounds suffered overseas, bringing us back to our roots right here at home. It is a different look into the many aspects of war and reminds us of how truly diverse we are as a nation and how we all do our part in times of need. Bobak’s painting expresses a side of the war not often immediately remembered, and emphasizes the importance of all Canadians in the war effort.

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