Fritz Brandtner’s (1896-1969) forays into many different artistic fields make him one of Canada’s most impressive representatives in the worlds of art and culture. Largely self-taught, he worked as a painter, printmaker, draughtsman, graphic artist, illustrator, muralist, set designer, and art teacher. In each discipline he was prolific and influential. He used oils, watercolours, graphite, charcoal, mixed media, carved linoleum, and encaustic, and created both figurative and abstract works.
Coming to Canada in 1928, he spent time in Winnipeg, and then – in 1934 – settled in Montreal. Soon after he became a prominent member of the Montreal art community, joining the likes of Louis Muhlstock, André Biéler, Jori Smith, John Lyman, and Anne Savage, as a leading voice for new initiatives and techniques. Through ties with his native Germany, Brandtner played a key role in introducing German Expressionism, among other European developments in art, to Canadian audiences. He also gained the acquaintance of Dr. Norman Bethune, with whom he shared a concern for social issues. In 1936, Bethune arranged an exhibition of Brandtner’s work at Henry Morgan and Co. to benefit the Canadian League against War and Fascism. The same year, Brandtner and Bethune founded the Children’s Art Centre, with Marian Scott soon joining the teaching staff.