painting Bruno Bobak, Flood, undated, oil on canvas, 76.2 x 101.4 cm

Art images are important sources of information, documents revealing information about particular times and places. Using Bruno Bobak's Flood as a starting point, it is possible to consider ideas related to the impact of location and urbanisation, and regional experience. Suggested in historic and contemporary images are ideas regarding the effects of historical change and social, cultural, political, and economic aspects of geographical location.

Bruno Bobak, Flood
undated
CAG 73.8
© 2006, Confederation Centre Art Gallery. All Rights Reserved.


photograph, archival document, Fredericton

Consider the archival image above of Fredericton, during a 1936 flood. Examining the Bobak painting, it is possible to think about how the art work reflects the specific environmental and geographical conditions of the city situated on the banks of the Saint John River and the ways location affects the form the urban may take in terms of its cultural, social, political or economic conditions.

New Brunswick Provincial Archives
Collection: Harvey Studio Photographs
1936
New Brunswick Provincial Archives. All rights reserved.


If all images are sources of information about time and space, what does the painting suggest of Bobak's experience of Fredericton? Compare his depiction of a city with that of Charles Dickens' London in A Christmas Carol. Consider and contrast the art work to the textual passage that evokes an urban scene in the Victorian period. What strikes you as similar or different in Bobak's and Dicken's tools used to depict the urban environment and the details that shape its ambience?

  Meanwhile the fog and darkness thickened so, that people ran about with flaring links, proffering their services to go before horses in carriages, and conduct them on their way. The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slily down at Scrooge out of a Gothic window in the wall, became invisible, and struck the hours and quarters in the clouds, with tremulous vibrations afterwards as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head up there. The cold became intense. In the main street at the corner of the court, some labourers were repairing the gas–pipes, and had lighted a grea Read More

If all images are sources of information about time and space, what does the painting suggest of Bobak's experience of Fredericton? Compare his depiction of a city with that of Charles Dickens' London in A Christmas Carol. Consider and contrast the art work to the textual passage that evokes an urban scene in the Victorian period. What strikes you as similar or different in Bobak's and Dicken's tools used to depict the urban environment and the details that shape its ambience?

 

Meanwhile the fog and darkness thickened so, that people ran about with flaring links, proffering their services to go before horses in carriages, and conduct them on their way. The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slily down at Scrooge out of a Gothic window in the wall, became invisible, and struck the hours and quarters in the clouds, with tremulous vibrations afterwards as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head up there. The cold became intense. In the main street at the corner of the court, some labourers were repairing the gas–pipes, and had lighted a great fire in a brazier, round which a party of ragged men and boys were gathered: warming their hands and winking their eyes before the blaze in rapture. The water–plug being left in solitude, its overflowing sullenly congealed, and turned to misanthropic ice. The brightness of the shops where holly sprigs and berries crackled in the lamp heat of the windows, made pale faces ruddy as they passed. Poulterers’ and grocers’ trades became a splendid joke; a glorious pageant, with which it was next to impossible to believe that such dull principles as bargain and sale had anything to do. The Lord Mayor, in the stronghold of the mighty Mansion House, gave orders to his fifty cooks and butlers to keep Christmas as a Lord Mayor’s household should; and even the little tailor, whom he had fined five shillings on the previous Monday for being drunk and bloodthirsty in the streets, stirred up to–morrow’s pudding in his garret, while his lean wife and the baby sallied out to buy the beef.

Foggier yet, and colder! Piercing, searching, biting cold. If the good Saint Dunstan had but nipped the Evil Spirit’s nose with a touch of such weather as that, instead of using his familiar weapons, then indeed he would have roared to lusty purpose. The owner of one scant young nose, gnawed and mumbled by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by dogs, stooped down at Scrooge’s keyhole to regale him with a Christmas carol: but at the first sound of

‘God bless you, merry gentlemen! May nothing you dismay!’

Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.

At length the hour of shutting up the counting–house arrived. With an ill–will Scrooge dismounted from his stool, and tacitly admitted the fact to the expectant clerk in the Tank, who instantly snuffed his candle out, and put on his hat.

‘You’ll want all day to–morrow, I suppose?’ said Scrooge.

‘If quite convenient, sir.’

‘It’s not convenient,’ said Scrooge, ‘and it’s not fair. If I was to stop you half–a–crown for it, you’d think yourself ill–used, I’ll be bound?’

The clerk smiled faintly.

‘And yet,’ said Scrooge, ‘you don’t think me ill–used, when I pay a day’s wages for no work.’

The clerk observed that it was only once a year.

‘A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty–fifth of December!’ said Scrooge, buttoning his great–coat to the chin. ‘But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next morning.’

The clerk promised that he would; and Scrooge walked out with a growl. The office was closed in a twinkling, and the clerk, with the long ends of his white comforter dangling below his waist (for he boasted no great–coat), went down a slide on Cornhill, at the end of a lane of boys, twenty times, in honour of its being Christmas Eve, and then ran home to Camden Town as hard as he could pelt, to play at blindman’s–bluff.1

1 Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol, 1843. Work is in the public domain.

For a complete on-line version, see http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/d/dickens/charles/d54cc/part1.html.  This digital version is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

© 2006, Confederation Centre Art Gallery. All Rights Reserved.

About the artist
Bruno Bobak was born at Wawelowska, Poland, in 1923 and came to Canada in 1927. At the age of thirteen he began Saturday morning art classes in Toronto under Arthur Lismer and later at the Central Technical School. In 1942 he joined the army and was shortly thereafter appointed an official war artist. He and his wife Molly settled in Ottawa after the war working as an artist and moved to Vancouver in 1948 where he taught art at the Vancouver School of Art. During a study trip to Europe, he received news of his appointment as artist-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick in 1960. What was initially planned as a one-year stay in Fredericton, turned out to be a lifetime. From 1962 until his retirement in 1987, Bruno Bobak was director of the UNB Art Centre. He and Molly continue to reside in Fredericton. Bruno Bobak is a member of the Canada Group of Painters, Society of Canadian Painter-Etchers and Engravers, Canadian Society of Graphic Art, Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour, British Columbia Society of Artists, and the Royal Canadian Academy. He is represented in numerous private, corporate, and public Read More
About the artist
Bruno Bobak was born at Wawelowska, Poland, in 1923 and came to Canada in 1927. At the age of thirteen he began Saturday morning art classes in Toronto under Arthur Lismer and later at the Central Technical School. In 1942 he joined the army and was shortly thereafter appointed an official war artist. He and his wife Molly settled in Ottawa after the war working as an artist and moved to Vancouver in 1948 where he taught art at the Vancouver School of Art. During a study trip to Europe, he received news of his appointment as artist-in-residence at the University of New Brunswick in 1960. What was initially planned as a one-year stay in Fredericton, turned out to be a lifetime. From 1962 until his retirement in 1987, Bruno Bobak was director of the UNB Art Centre. He and Molly continue to reside in Fredericton. Bruno Bobak is a member of the Canada Group of Painters, Society of Canadian Painter-Etchers and Engravers, Canadian Society of Graphic Art, Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour, British Columbia Society of Artists, and the Royal Canadian Academy. He is represented in numerous private, corporate, and public collections.

About the work
Bruno Bobak's art has explored a range of subjects, media, techniques, styles and visions. Equally adept at drawing, watercolour, printmaking, oil painting, mural-making, and sculpture, subjects for his art work have also varied from figures, portraits, and still-life, to landscapes such as street scenes, harbours, and buildings. In the past 15 years Bobak has returned to a stark, realist style. Textures have become smooth and flattened, colors patterned, the palette heightened in tone, and the structure of compositions more consciously designed and ordered. While the landscapes he has explored have varied widely, settings in the Maritimes have been a significant part of his art practice. Flood is one such work. Produced in oil, in the painting Bobak creates a sense of the unique geographical experience of Fredericton, conveying a sense of the sombre climate and watery landscape in blue and grey tones. Brushstrokes in an expressionist style, random and generous in size, give the perception of movement and depth.

© 2006, Confederation

Learning Objectives

These materials are intended to be used at the secondary level to address art education, language arts, and social studies curriculum outcomes. Students will (be expected to):

Social Studies

  • apply concepts associated with time, continuity, and change
  • research and describe historical events and ideas from different perspectives
  • identify, evaluate, and use appropriate primary and secondary sources to learn and communicate about the past
  • use spatial concepts and models to interpret and make decisions about the organization, distribution, and interaction of physical and human phenomena

Language Arts

  • ask discriminating questions to acquire, interpret, analyze, and evaluate ideas and information
  • generate questions as a guide to research
  • examine relationships between different forms of expression

Visual Arts

  • derive images through the study of historical images from their own and other's cultures
  • investigate visual communication systems as integral to everyday life

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