1911 - 1980
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Robert Bruce was born in Grandview, Manitoba and grew up in Winnipeg. He was a talented teacher, an award-winning war artist, and successful illustrator, as well as a muralist, printmaker and painter. As a young man, he attended the Winnipeg School of Art under L.L. Fitzgerald.
With the help of a bursary, he travelled to Europe, studying at the Central School of Art in London and the Académie Grande Chaumière in France. Like other artists of his generation, he wished to help in the war effort and enlisted in the Canadian Military. He distinguished himself as a public relations staff artist, participating in a prestigious war art exhibition which opened at the National Gallery of Canada. In 1946, while still in the military, he participated in ‘Exercise Musk-ox’, which trekked over three thousand miles across the top of Canada, using Churchill as a departure point. Bruce recorded the human effort involved in the expedition, inspiration for many great paintings.
Following his discharge from the army, he moved to New York, to work and study at the Art Student’s League. There he met, fellow student, George Swinton, with whom he would later teach at the University of Manitoba School of Art. While in New York, his illustrations were published in leading publications, such as Life, The New York Times, Harpers and McLean’s. Bruce was a skier, swimmer, canoeist and sailor, and this physicality was demonstrated in the dynamic composition and colours of his canvases. After his retirement from the University of Manitoba, in 1976, he divided his time between Falcon Lake and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, which had a small but active artists’ enclave. He died there in 1980. Robert Bruce was posthumously honoured by the Winnipeg Art Gallery in 2004, with an exhibition called ‘The Art of Robert Bruce’.