The frames of houses in ruins stand in a devastated landscape. The ravaged ground is marked by two large craters from exploding shells. The sky is black, orange and red.

Will Ogilvie

(Stutterheim, South Africa, 1901 – Toronto 1989)


Bombed Houses, Caen (Normandy)


Oil on canvas

76.7 x 61.5 cm

Transferred from National Gallery of Canada, 1971

Beaverbrook Collection of War Art

Canadian War Museum, 19710261-4436

© Estate of Will Ogilvie. Photo: Canadian War Museum

In Bombed Houses, Caen (Normandy), Will Ogilvie depicts the ruins of homes destroyed in World War II bombing raids. Skeletal façades and frames resemble silhouettes of tall figures wandering unsteadily in a devastated landscape. The red glow of a distant fire tinges the sky and dark clouds of smoke. The ground is pockmarked with bombshell holes. The predominance of white and grey gives the scene a look of lunar desolation. Ogilvie imbues the painting with a surreal tone that reflects the feelings of loss, solitude and horror engendered by the violence of war.

Will Ogilvie immigrated to Toronto in 1925 at the age of twenty-four. In 1936, after studying in New York, he painted several murals for Hart House chapel at University of Toronto. In 1942, he was appointed an official Canadian war artist. While on the European front lines, he produced numerous watercolours that later served as inspiration for oil paintings in a distinctly Surrealist style. After the war, Ogilvie taught at institutions including the Ontario College of Art and University of Toronto.


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