Molly Lamb Bobak sketching boats in Volendam, the Netherlands Photo from the Library and Archives of Canada

Molly Lamb Bobak sketching boats in Volendam, the Netherlands
Photo from the Library and Archives of Canada

Molly Lamb Bobak, 1922 - 2014

Molly Joan Lamb was born on Lulu Island off the coast of Vancouver in 1922. She was born into an unconventional household. Her art critic father, Harold Mortimer Lamb, hired Molly’s mother, Mary Williams, as a housekeeper when his wife became ill. Molly and her mother lived in the house alongside Mortimer Lamb’s wife and their children. Despite the unusual arrangement, the family lived a happy, harmonious life. 

Bobak’s father’s role as art critic meant that she met very influential artists at a very young age; the members of the Group of Seven were regular visitors to the house. 

Bobak did not enjoy or excel at school and, in 1938, her mother encouraged her to enroll at the Vancouver School of Art to study with Charles H. Scott and Jack Shadbolt. As her teacher, then mentor, Bobak and Shadbolt remained friends well beyond her school years. 

During the Second World War, Bobak enlisted in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps and was appointed Canada’s first female war artist. She travelled across Canada and England in order to record women’s contributions to the war effort. What resulted was a very different, feminine view of war. 

While in London, Bobak met fellow artist and future husband Bruno Bobak and, in 1945, they were married. The war ended and Molly found herself back in Canada with a husband and her first child. She was not able to paint much during the next few years; her focus was on motherhood and making ends meet. However, through a few fortuitous contacts she was awarded a French Government Scholarship to study in Paris, and received invitations to show in two Biennials, one at home and one abroad. This brought her financial success and contributed to her rising popularity. 

In 1960, the Bobaks switched coasts when Bruno Bobak accepted an artist-in-residence position at the University of New Brunswick. Molly taught at the University of New Brunswick Art Centre and continued to paint. 

Molly Lamb Bobak Is known for her war-time work, her florals, but mostly for her depictions of lively crowds of people. She died on March 2nd, 2014. Out of the 32 official war artists in World War II, Molly Lamb Bobak was the only woman, and the last surviving member.

1973 - Became a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
1993 - Major retrospective organized by The Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina.
1995 - Presented with the Order of Canada.

Selected Collections 

Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, ON
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON
Art Gallery of Northumberland, Cobourg, ON
The Feckless Collection, Vancouver, BC