C. Anthony Law

November 1, 1997 by Jennifer Morse


Bold strokes and hot colour characterize the work of C. Anthony Law. From top to bottom: Survivors, Normandy, Off Le Havre; Windy Day In The British Assault Area; Decommissioning, Rainy Weather, Sydney, N.S.

C. Anthony Law, who died late last year, was born in England in 1916. His father, an army major serving with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and his mother, the daughter of a judge in the Exchequer Court, were both Canadian and returned to Canada in 1917.

Tony Law, as he was known, grew up in Quebec City and spent summers with his grandfathers. At age 14, while staying with his mother’s dad, he built his first sailboat. While staying with his father’s dad, a retired sea captain, he learned to paint. Law spent three years at Upper Canada College before moving on to the University of Ottawa where he studied under Frank Varley, a member of the Group of Seven.

In 1937, Law joined the Royal Cdn. Ordnance Corps and in 1940 he resigned his commission in the Army and transferred to the Royal Cdn. Naval Volunteer Reserve. Within a week he was on his way to England. He was mentioned in dispatches in 1942 and again in 1943. In 1944, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for 15 successive actions during the Normandy landings. Somehow hemanaged to continue painting while involved in the hazardous and demanding job of commanding a motor torpedo boat, and later the 29th Cdn. Motor Torpedo Boat Flotilla.

Law painted with as much vivid color and energy as he lived and in 1944 he became a temporary war artist.

On Feb. 14, 1945, while Law was absent, the 29th Flotilla was destroyed by fire in the harbor at Ostend, Belgium. Gasoline that had been discharged into the harbor ignited and the boats were engulfed in flames. Fuel tanks burst and ammunition exploded in a tremendous blast. Twenty-six Canadian and 35 British sailors lost there lives as did a number of civilians. After the loss of his ship and flotilla, Law was appointed an official war artist. He completed 29 large oil canvasses and 75 oil sketches. Although he did not witness the disaster at Ostend, his paintings speak volumes of the many frantic battles, flak-filled skies and skirmishes he did live through.

In 1946, Law was transferred to the permanent Navy and retired in 1966 as a commander. Law was a man who knew and loved the sea and interpreted it in oil on canvas with passion and intensity. His bold strokes and hot colors are a fitting tribute to a commander of two worlds–art and the sea.

Email the writer at: writer@legionmagazine.com

Email a letter to the editor at: letters@legionmagazine.com

Many of the Canadian War Museum’s ­holdings are ­available in reproduction at affordable prices. For more information, contact Image Reproduction Services, Canadian War Museum, 1 Vimy Place, Ottawa, ON K1R 0C2; tel: 1-819-776-8686; fax: 1-819-776-8623; e-mail: Imageservices@warmuseum.ca


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