Charles Comfort (1900-1994) was one of Canada’s outstanding artists. He was Vice President of the Royal Canadian Academy and a former President of The Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour. Comfort was also a member of The Ontario Society of Artists, the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto and he was a founding member of the Federation of the Canadian Artists. In 1936, Charles Comfort obtained a studio next to A.Y.Jackson in the Studio Building, a location made famous by Tom Thompson and members of the Group of Seven. In 1937, Comfort was commissioned to design the exterior frieze of the Toronto Stock Exchange building and several of Comfort’s murals hang in what is now The Design Exchange building. Comfort was appointed Associate Professor at the University of Toronto to teach historical painting techniques and he remained there for 25 years. Comfort served as an official war artist in World War II. Artist At War reflects his response to what he witnessed overseas during the Italian Campaign of 1943-1944.
Comfort is represented in the National Gallery of Canada and in most of the principal art galleries in Canada. In the 1950s, Comfort was commissioned to paint a mural for the interior of the new Banff National Park railway car, one of 18 artists selected by Canadian Pacific Railway to create murals for their new Canadian Transcontinental Railway Service.
In the introduction of Artist At War, Comfort writes: “This is an account of my personal experiences during an episode of the Second World War. I have undertaken to write these rambling, discontinuous impressions because I was profoundly stirred by all that I saw and felt…
“I was not a combat soldier, although I had been trained as such, but a war artist, assigned the task of producing some visual record of the part played by officers and men of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division during the Italian campaign of 1943-1944, an appointment which offered me opportunities for observation, not only of many of the actions, but of many interesting phases of life in Italy at the time.”
With these words, Charles Comfort set out the tone of his tour of duty as War Artist during World War II. The illustrations in Artist At War depict Comfort’s response to war. Included in the list of illustrations of this publication are the following paintings and drawings by Charles Comfort.
The Hitler Line
Canadian Troops aboard Transport Volendam, S.S. California on left Philippeville, North Africa. Cape de Fer and Stora Bay , in background
American L.C.I. Transporting Canadian Troops from Philippeville, Algeria, to Taranto, Italy. Mount Etna, Sicily, in background
“Stand Easy” Following Crash Action
Canadian Field Guns near Orton
Piazza Plebiscito, Ortona
Piazza San Francisco di Assisi. Wrecked Church of Santa Maria Della Grazie, Ortona
Battle Scene –(Fantasy)—Villa Grande Road
Rocca San Giovanni, looking north
Aquino, Italy, Route 6 at Cassino
Destroyed Panzertrum on the Adolf Hitler Line
Artist At War, was published by The Ryerson Press in 1956. “I am proud to have served with so gallant and unforgettable a company, to have been eyewitness to their fine achievement, their suffering and their brave sacrifice in the cause of liberty,” he writes. “With respect and gratitude, I pay my small tribute to those who did not return, as well as to those who survived.”
His painting, The Hitler Line, hangs in the Canadian War Museum. Charles Comfort was director of the National Gallery of Canada from 1960-1965 and was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada in 1972.