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Charles Comfort

Charles Fraser Comfort (1900-1994) was a distinguished Canadian painter and Director of the National Gallery of Canada (1960-1965).

Born in Scotland, Comfort came to Winnipeg in 1912. Comfort  worked in the office of F.H.  Brigden, R.C.A., and studied at the Winnipeg School of Art. He then continued his studies under Robert Henri, at the Art Students' League, New York. Comfort returned to Canada in 1923, and married Louise Irene Chase (1902-1998) the following year. They lived in Toronto, where Comfort established a commercial studio, and taught at the Ontario College of Art (1935-1938) and at the University of Toronto (1938-1960).

During the second World War, Comfort served in Europe as an official war artist. Following the war, he returned to his teaching position in Toronto and continued working as an artist. During this period, he studied seventeenth-century Dutch master techniques in the Netherlands, contributed articles to Canadian journals, and published his war memoir. In 1960, Comfort was appointed Director of the National Gallery of Canada. At the conclusion of his five-year term, he resumed painting.

During a long and distinguished career, Charles Comfort enjoyed the friendship of Canadian artists, writers and critics. He held memberships in numerous art societies, including the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour (charter member, 1926), Canadian Society of Graphic Art, Ontario Society of Artists, Canadian Group of Painters (founding member, 1933), and Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (president, 1957-1960). Among many honours, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1972.

The Library of Charles and Louise Comfort consists of more than 800 books, exhibition catalogues and periodicals, published mainly since the beginning of the twentieth century. The Library is rich in association copies, inscriptions, annotations and related ephemera, such as greeting cards and personal letters. The Comfort Library includes examples of Canadian illustrated books, which are among the chief collecting interests of the National Gallery of Canada. Artists such as Edwin Holgate (1892-1977), Laurence Hyde (1914- ), Thoreau MacDonald (1901-1989) and others are represented. In scope, the Library reflects the various interests of Charles and Louise Comfort. Visual arts are strongly represented, including the history and theory of art, methods and materials in painting, and studies of individual artists. The second World War is a prominent subject, including histories, memoirs, works of literature and catalogues of exhibitions inspired by the War.

The National Gallery of Canada received the Library of Charles and Louise Comfort in two parts. Part one was donated in 1996 by Charles Comfort's widow, Louise Comfort, now deceased. Part two was in the possession of Charles and Louise Comfort's daughter, Ruth Comfort Jackson, who died in 1998. Ruth Jackson's husband, Mr. Ray Jackson, donated Part two to the National Gallery of Canada in 1999.

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