Anthony Law is further proof of something we know – you don’t have to be born in Canada to become a truly great Canadian.
Law was born in England in 1916 and was then brought to Canada with his family a year later. Growing up in Quebec City, Law developed a talent and passion for art. He was even fortunate enough to study under Frank Varley, a member of the Group of Seven.
In 1937, Law joined the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps and in 1940 he resigned his commission in the Army and transferred to the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. Little did he know that even in the military art would still play a large role in his life. He continued to paint even while maintaining the strenuous job of commanding a motor torpedo boat, and later the 29th Canadian Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla. As soldiers around him noticed his impressive artwork he eventually became a temporary war artist.
On February 14th, 1945, while Law was away, the 29th Flotilla was destroyed in the harbour at Ostend, Belgium. Gasoline had been poured into the water and the entire harbour was set ablaze. Fuel tanks and ammunition exploded and the boats were burned and sank. Many civilians, as well as 26 Canadian and 35 British soldiers, were killed. Law was fortunate to miss the explosion, but he was there to capture the grisly aftermath. After the devastation of the attack, Law was appointed to the role of official war artist.
Throughout the Second World War, Law completed 29 large oil canvases and 75 oil sketches all effectively depicting the drama, horror and chaos of battle and the remnants of what it leaves behind. Much of Law’s artwork is still on display at the Canadian War Museum. Anthony Law passed away at the age of 80 in Halifax, Nova Scotia on October 15th, 1996.