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Young painter documented horrors of Second World War

Bruno Bobak enlisted in the Canadian Army during the war and was made an official war artist in 1944.

Bruno Bobak, who was Canada's youngest official war artist during the Second World War, has died in New Brunswick.

The 88-year-old painter died in hospital in Saint John on Monday following a brief illness, said Bernie Riordon, director of Fredericton's Beaverbrook Art Gallery.

"He was a very passionate and emotional expressionistic painter that people grew to love and admire," said Riordon.

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New Brunswick Premier David Alward described Bobak as being "at the heart of the artistic life of our province for over 50 years."

Bobak was born in Wawelowska, Poland, in 1923, and his family moved to Canada two years later.

He began painting while a teenager, studying under Arthur Lismer of the Group of Seven in Toronto.

Bobak enlisted in the Canadian Army during the war and was made an official war artist in 1944, after winning an art competition – travelling with the 4th Canadian Armoured Division through France and Germany.

Bobak moved to Fredericton in 1960, where he remained for the rest of his life.

Inge Pataki, who owns Gallery 78 in Fredericton, said Bobak was a close friend and talented artist.

"Anything he did with his hands and with his eyes was perfect," Pataki said.

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"He was a print-maker, he drew incredibly well, his paintings were fantastic and he made furniture.

"His figurative work is a very strong expression of humanity, his landscapes were just masterful at characterizing or portraying the province of New Brunswick."

The Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton is home to many of Bobak's works, as well as paintings by his wife, Molly Lamb Bobak.

"In my view, he and Molly were the royalty of New Brunswick art," Riordon said, adding that Bobak was generous with his time and advice to help young artists.

"It is a great loss to our community."

The Bobaks were named members of the Order of Canada in 1995.

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Pataki said Bobak continued to paint in recent months and contributed works to a show she had in April.

"He had three – one large canvas of a view of the river with Fredericton, and two smaller works in that show – that he painted last winter," she said.

"That's why it is so incredibly shocking that he's gone."

On Tuesday, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery compiled a number of Bruno Bobak's paintings for display in their Canadian collection.

A book of condolences has been placed at the gallery for people to sign.

Bobak leaves his wife, son Alex, daughter Annie and their extended families.

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