After accepting a position in 1960 as the artist-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick, Bruno Bobak moved his family to Fredericton and would soon become one of the most influential artists to be based in the area.
The Beaverbrook Art Gallery is currently exhibiting his work from 1947-1960, which was all done while he was living in Vancouver. The exhibit features many paintings, prints, drawings and even a coffee table. The gallery was given these creations after Bobak passed away in 2012.
The public has not previously seen most pieces in the exhibition. Alex Bobak, the son of the artist, was cleaning out his father’s studio when he came across the collection. He then contacted Terry Graff, the director, CEO, and chief curator of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. The gallery has received 208 works of art from the estate of the artist.
“The Beaverbrook Art Gallery has the largest and most comprehensive collection of Bobak art,” said Graff. “This exhibit presents a part of Bruno Bobak’s life that a lot of people from New Brunswick don’t know about.”
The exhibit includes landscapes of hills and valleys, rocks, plants, and animals. As Graff explained, the artist was greatly inspired by the scenery that surrounded him on the west coast. “Lily Pads,” a watercolour painting of a cluster of lily pads on the water, was one of the few that were actually titled.
As Graff said, “Not all artists name their work. Some feel the title interferes with the experience of abstract art. If you can say it with words, then why make a painting?”
The show presents us the wide range of artistic talents that Bobak possessed. This is evident when looking at the remarkable coffee table, which was pulled from Alex Bobak’s house specifically for the exhibit. It’s beautiful and practical, as Bobak actually used the table at home.
Across the street, Gallery 78 is also showing some of Bobak’s work from more recent years. Once Bobak moved to Fredericton, his work shifted to paintings of the figure and of the landscape on the East Coast.
Some of the paintings are so recent that there is no signature from the artist. Gallery 78 worked with Bobak consistently until his death, and after he passed away the gallery got a few of his paintings that may or may not have been completed, since they were still in his studio and unsigned.
Bobak’s figurative paintings identify the universal human condition and people in their everyday lives. He captured all kinds of different actions on canvas. At the Gallery 78 exhibit, some of his work displays people kissing, skating or simply putting on socks.
“A lot of other artists looked up to him. He was a role model in a lot of ways, by having a good reputation as an artist and by being able to make a living as an artist in New Brunswick,” said Graff. “Many homes in New Brunswick have both Molly’s [Bobak’s wife] and Bruno’s paintings.”
The Beaverbrook Art Gallery will be showing Modern in Nature: Bruno Bobak’s Vancouver Years (1947-1960) from now until next March.
Gallery 78 will be showing Bruno Bobak’s creations as well from now until Dec. 21.