1896 - 1969
CGP CSGA CSPWC QMG
Fritz Brandtner was a prolific artist who worked in a variety of media including oil, watercolour, charcoal, encaustic and wood, and produced prints using linoleum and wood blocks. His vividly coloured work with its characteristic slashes and outlines of black is decidedly Expressionist in tone, grounded in solid design, and shows the influence of the Bauhaus School.
Brandtner had a vast life experience. Born in Danzig, he was forced into the German army in 1915. He was captured in battle and spent the remainder of the war in a French prison camp. After his release, Brandtner worked as a studio assistant with Post-Impressionist Fritz August Pfuhle and taught life drawing classes in his hometown of Danzig, Poland. In the local gallery he studied the work of Max Beckmann, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso and Hans Grotz, and was fluent in the visual language of Cubism. However, faced with difficult economic times, he moved to Winnipeg in 1928. While there he was employed by the firm Brigden's as a commercial artist, painting houses and designing stage sets, and met other Winnipeg artists including Lionel Lemoine FitzGerald, Bertram Brooker, Caven Atkins and Phillip Surrey.
With Fitzgerald's encouragement, Brandtner moved to Montreal in 1934, feeling that there would be a more receptive audience for his work in that city. He was correct, and the Canadian League Against War and Fascism sponsored a show of his work in 1936, showing images that dealt with poverty, fascism and war. Dr. Norman Bethune and Marion Scott were early supporters of his work and shared his social and societal concerns; Scott and Brandtner gave free art classes to children from the poorest areas of Montreal. Artist John Lyman was also an early supporter and encouraged Brandtner in his role as a conduit between Canadians and the European avant-garde, with whom Brandtner maintained his connections; thus Brandtner is credited with bringing Expressionism to a wider audience in Canada. Brandtner developed a relationship with Paul Kastel of the Kastel Gallery, and had a long and successful association there. He was the winner of the Jessie Dow Award for watercolours in 1946, the Canada Council Visual Arts Award in 1968. He died in Montreal in 1969.