Fritz Brandtner

Jessie Dow Prize in 1946, awarded by the Art Association of Montreal

Fritz Brandtner

Canadian painter, born in Germany in 1896 and died in Quebec in 1969. Fritz Brandtner was a painter, draftsman, muralist and teacher. He brought to Winnipeg, and Montreal later, his understanding of the developments of art in Europe, especially German Expressionism.

Essentially self-taught in the field of the arts, Brandtner was the adjunct of post-impressionist August Pfuhle in his studio and gave live model workshops at the University of Danzig. At the same time, he worked as a graphic designer and participated in at least one collective exhibition in Danzig. In 1928, he moved to Canada, settling in Winnipeg, where he presented a solo exhibition in the months following his arrival. He worked as a commercial artist, muralist and scenic decorator, and met with Philip Surrey. FitzGerald advised him to move to Montreal for his more experimental art scene and put him in touch with Winnipeg-based art critic Robert Ayre.

In 1934, Brandtner followed his friend's advice and shortly afterwards Ayre introduced him to the Montreal artistic community, including Louis Muhlstock, Andre Bieler, Jori Smith, John Lyman and Anne Savage. Dr. Norman Bethune and Marian Scott were also among Brandtner's first contacts in Montreal. The three shared a common concern for social causes. In 1936, Bethune set up an exhibition of Brandtner's works at Henry Morgan and Co. for the benefit of the Canadian League Against War and Fascism. In the same year, Brandtner and Bethune founded the Children's Art Center.

Over the next 20 years, Brandtner taught art in many schools and community organizations, and for many years served as director of the University of New Brunswick Summer School. With Pegi Nicol Macleod and Louis Muhlstock, he provided illustrations to periodicals such as The Canadian Forum and New Frontier. He has traveled extensively to make sketches and paintings in the Gaspé, the Laurentians and Nova Scotia.

A prolific artist, Brandtner made oil painting, watercolor, drawing with lead pencil and charcoal, and used mixed techniques, engraved linoleum and encaustic. In his works both figurative and abstract, his subjects were varied and included landscapes, urban scenes, portraits and images against war, as well as still lifes. He experimented with abstraction very early, and his journeys of painting inspired many abstract landscapes, including the South Shore of the St. Lawrence (1957).

Brandtner has presented 15 solo exhibitions across Canada and has participated in numerous international collective exhibitions. He has been a member of the Contemporary Art Society and has received several awards including the Jessie Dow Award in 1946, awarded by the Art Association of Montreal.

 Source: National Museum of Art.

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