Albert Cloutier

March 1, 2001 by Jennifer Morse

Canadian war artist Albert Cloutier was born at Leominster, Mass., in 1902. His Canadian parents returned to Montreal when he was still a child. As a young man growing up in Montreal, Cloutier studied under several well-known teachers, including A.Y. Jackson and Edwin H. Holgate.

Cloutier supported himself as a freelance artist for about 10 years before becoming supervisor of war poster production for the federal government from 1940 to 1944. In March 1944, he enlisted and was appointed an official war artist for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Cloutier, who rose to the rank of flight lieutenant, was one of a few war artists who had established himself as a successful artist and designer prior to war service.

After an initial posting at Kingston, Ont., Cloutier was sent to Newfoundland where he painted and sketched various detachments throughout Eastern Air Command. But it was at Brig Harbour Island on the coast of Labrador where he was most prolific as a war artist. He arrived at the desolate radar base in April 1945 and within a few days the grim weather closed in. For the next two months, Cloutier put his talents to good use. He immersed himself in the lives of servicemen stationed at the base and painted with abandon.

The artist had a loose and breezy style that worked beautifully with his wartime subject matter. In many of his paintings the viewer can feel the movement and air. With a few bright washes of colour and clean sweeping pencil strokes, he draws the viewer into the world of aviators. “Any painter must feel strongly that he has something to say. He must be excited about life. Art is a matter of talent, intelligence and discipline. Many a talented, undisciplined and unthinking artist has found himself with a brush in his hand and not known what to do with it,” he said during an interview in 1958.

After the war, Cloutier resumed his career as a commercial artist, and in 1955 began teaching at École des Beaux-Arts in Montreal. He died at Saint-Hilaire, Que., in June 1965 at the age of 63. Cloutier was a confident artist and lucky for us knew exactly what to do with the brush in his hand.

Albert Cloutier believed painters must be excited about life and have something to say in their art. He produced several works, including (clockwise from opposite page) Saturday Night At Brig Harbour; Corporal Bradshaw’s Snow Cave; Para-Rescue Jumper With Chute Opened; Airman’s Barracks; Briggy.

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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:


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