Frank Augustyn, OC

Canada’s ‘Principal’ Principal Dancer…

Augustyn_Gallery1Frank Joseph AugustynOC (born January 27, 1953) is a Canadian ballet dancer and artistic director. He was principal dancer of the National Ballet of Canada and the Berlin Opera Ballet. He was artistic director of the Ottawa Ballet, from 1989–1994.

For a country its size, Canada has many outstanding ballet dancers—i.e. Margo Fontayne, Karen Cain, Veronica Tenant—but only one Frank Augustyn.

He was born in Hamilton, Ontario. As a boy, his interests were in gymnastics and acrobatics. During a summer course at Canada’s National Ballet School (often called The National) intended to help improve movement and his control for his gymanstic acrobatic training, his abilities for ballet were recognized by Betty Oliphant, founder and director of the school. Oliphant was at the time looking for male dancers, always a challenge for ballet schools. Although Augustyn’s parents were reluctant to have their son pursue ballet as a career, Augustyn continued in the school until at seventeen he joined the professional company National Ballet of Canada.

Frank Augustyne - "La fille mal gardée."
Frank Augustyne – “La fille mal gardée.”

Augustyn joined the National Ballet of Canada in 1970. He was the National Ballet’s principal dancer from 1972 to 1989. From 1980 to 1981, he was principal dancer at the Berlin Opera Ballet. From 1985 to 1986, he was the principal guest artist at the Boston Ballet. From 1989 to 1994, he was the artistic director of the Ottawa Ballet. He was a founding member of Ballet Revue (dancing his own piece, Personal Essay) and has appeared frequently on international television. Television viewers are familiar with Mr. Augustyn’s series on ballet, Footnotes, seen on Bravo U.S. and Bravo Canada. In this series, which he co-wrote, co-produced and hosted, Mr.

Augustyn outlines the history and techniques of classical ballet for a general audience. He has published Footnotes–Dancing the World’s Best Loved Ballets, which is based on the television production, as well as his memoirs, Dancing from the Heart.

Augustyn often danced with Karen Kain. They won the award for best pas de deux at the 1973 Moscow International Ballet Competition, dancing the extremely difficult Blue Bird pas de deux from Sleeping Beauty, in a version with great technical demands. Director of the dance program at Adelphi University since 2000, Augustyn was appointed Program Chair in 2007.

*Source – Wikipedia.

Molly Lamb-Bobak, CM, ONB

Canada’s first Official Woman War Artist

molly bobak - portraitMolly Bobak CM ONB (February 25, 1922 – March 2, 2014) was a Canadian teacher, writer, printmaker and painter working in oils and watercolours. During World War II, she was the first Canadian woman artist to be sent overseas to document Canada’s war effort, and in particular, the work of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (C.W.A.C).

Early life

Born Molly Lamb on February 25, 1922,[1] she grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her mother, Mary Williams, initially worked as a housekeeper for Molly’s father, Harold Mortimer-Lamb, when his wife became ill. At some point, her parents decided to move in together along with Mortimer-Lamb’s wife and their children. Molly and her extended family seemed to live happily in this unconventional household.

Mortimer-Lamb was an art critic and collector who befriended the artists of the Group of Seven, who would visit the family on occasion.

Moly’s reputed poor eyesight and dislike for her teachers left her with poor school marks. Recognizing this, her mother encouraged her to enroll at the Vancouver School of Art studying with artist Jack Shadbolt, whom she would remain close friends with all her life. Shadbolt enthusiastically encouraged her, and led her to discover European artists such as Cézanne and Matisse.

World War II

Fresh out of art school, she joined the Canadian Women’s Army Corps in 1942. She longed to be sent overseas and follow in the footsteps of her family friend A.Y. Jackson, who had been a war artist during the First World War.

After V-E Day in Europe, she got her wish and was sent to London. There she met her future husband, 21-year-old Bruno Bobak, Canada’s youngest war artist. The couple soon married. Ms. Bobak remained with the women’s corps until 1946, documenting their training, marching and working.

She had the ability to depict uniquely women’s experiences, and it was said of her that her art was about shared experiences—almost like conversational art

molly bobak - gas drillHer painting Gas Drill, for example, shows a group of women trying on black gas masks. All looking in different directions, the women appear curious but not sure what to do with the masks, Dr. Brandon said. Ms. Bobak also painted backstage at army shows, depicting women getting dressed for the performances, and at a wedding feast, where she focused on the luscious food.

Bobak enlisted in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps (C.W.A.C) in 1942 and stayed for four years. This was a vast opportunity as it allowed her to travel and gain new skills. She traveled across Canada and after Victory in Europe Day she went to London, England where she met her future husband, artist Bruno Bobak. As part of the C.W.A.C., she was appointed to document training, marching, working and any other contributions to the war.


After the end of the war, the Bobaks had a son, Alex, and tried to make a living on the West Coast by painting, teaching, and other various jobs. She painted little during these years, as she was busy looking after her children and teaching painting at night school. However, she met Jacques Maritain, a French Thomist philosopher and Vatican ambassador to the United States. He was impressed with her work, and arranged for a visit to France on a French Government Scholarship.

Alan Jarvis, Director of the National Gallery of Canada was also impressed by her work, and invited her to participate in exhibitions such as the Sao Paulo Biennial and the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Third Canadian Biennial in 1960. Through these exhibitions, she was able to enjoy increasing financial success and popularity.

She was among the first generation of Canadian women artists to work professionally and earn a living from their art. She was one of the fortunate women of the time, as her

Life in Fredericton

After spending four years in Europe with money from a grant by the Canada Council, Bruno was offered a position teaching at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Bruno and Molly settled in Fredericton, where she continued to live.

In 1973, she was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, and in 1993 the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan organized a major touring retrospective of her work.

Bobak is now most widely recognized for her depictions of crowds of people and her work from WWII. Her paintings of crowded scenes serve to record public events and visual experiences of large numbers of people sharing the same space, time and celebration.

Molly Lamb Bobak died March 2, 2014.

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Farley McGill Mowat

A consummate Canadian.

The dull one-dimensional facts describing Farley Mowat are as follows: (No Criticism of Wikipedia, my favourite source for facts is intended.)

farley mowatFarley McGill Mowat, OC (May 12, 1921 – May 6, 2014) was a Canadian author and environmentalist.

His works were translated into 52 languages, and he sold more than 17 million books. He achieved fame with the publication of his books on the Canadian north, such as People of the Deer (1952) and Never Cry Wolf (1963).[1] The latter, an account of his experiences with wolves in the Arctic, was made into a film of the same name released in 1983.

However, the reality is that Farley Mowat was a multi-dimensional man, and more. In his own words he, “…Never let the facts stand in the way of the truth. I am not a rational animal. I am a subjective animal. The only thing that matters is the subjective response.”

More facts

Mowat was born May 12, 1921 in Belleville, Ontario, and grew up in Richmond Hill. His great-great-uncle was Ontario premier Sir Oliver Mowat, and his father, Angus Mowat, was a librarian who later fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Mowat starting writing, in his words “mostly verse”, when his family lived in Windsor from 1930–1933.

In the 1930s, the Mowat family moved to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where as a teenager Mowat wrote about birds in a column for the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. During this time Mowat also wrote his own nature newsletter, Nature Lore.

After serving in World War II, Mowat attended the University of Toronto. His son Sandy was later the editor-in-chief of The Medium, the student newspaper of the university’s Mississauga campus.

Farley Mowat in his own words … With a little help from his friends:

“Whatever you do, remember your readers first and foremost! If you forget them your purpose becomes frustrated and blunted. You can’t lose them!

“The essence of writing is storytelling and it’s oral and always has been and will remain so! And if we lose touch with that we become incompetent as writers. If you examine most of the writers you find difficult–hard to handle–you don’t like their work and are uncomfortable with it–you will see it is because they have forgotten (if they ever knew) what their essential role really was– story-tellers!!” ~

“When Farley Mowat came into the studio, every sense was heightened. I never knew what I was in for, except that it would surprise, whether it was a funny story about the history of what is worn over and under a kilt or a sustained cri de coeur about Canada’s stuck-in-glue lethargy on matters environmental. It helped to have a dram of something standing by, especially if it was an early morning interview. It never clouded him or stopped him from using words like evanescent, for instance, to describe the fading firmness of cottonwood fluff as bedding when he was out camping as a boy.” ~ Shelagh Rogers, CBC … More.

“We have doomed the wolf not for what it is, but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be –the mythologized epitome of a savage ruthless killer – which is, in reality, no more than a reflected image of ourself.” ~ Farley Mowat, Never Cry Wolf

“…the three cardinal tenets of rum drinking in Newfoundland. The first of these is that as soon as a bottle is placed on a table it must be opened. This is done to “let the air get at it and carry off the black vapors.” The second tenet is that a bottle, once opened, must never be restoppered, because of the belief that it will then go bad. No bottle of rum has ever gone bad in Newfoundland, but none has ever been restoppered, so there is no way of knowing whether this belief is reasonable. The final tenet is that an open bottle must be drunk as rapidly as possible “before all to-good goes out of it.” ~ Farley Mowat, The Boat Who Wouldn’t Float

Farley Mowat to his editor: “When I split an infinitive, It had damned well better stay split!”