Artworks and Artists
Miller Brittain
Born in Saint John, New Brunswick, 12 November 1912
Died in Saint John, New Brunswick, 21 January 1968
Collection of the Library and Archives, National Gallery of Canada

Miller Brittain

In his emotion-filled drawings and paintings of the human form, Miller Brittain expressed his social commitment. These works, in which he documents the contemporary life of the inhabitants of his hometown St John, New Brunswick during the Depression years, earned him the recognition as "the Canadian Brueghel."

From 1930 to 1932, Miller Brittain studied at the Art Students League in New York, intending to work as a commercial illustrator. However his teachers introduced him to the work of Rembrandt van Rijn, William Hogarth, and Francisco Goya and he "was completely lost when (he) tried to turn out the tricky slap-dash demanded by art directors". He returned to Saint John in 1932 after two years at the League and worked at various construction and office jobs. During the thirties, Brittain became active for a short time in the Oxford Group, a Christian movement, focused on social issues. His drawings of this time are examples of social satire in Canadian art of the thirties. During WWII, Brittain joined the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) and worked briefly as an official war artist. In 1946, he returned to Saint John, and for the remainder of his life painted works with surrealistic overtones.