(1912–68). One of many Canadians to study at the Art Students League (New York, 1930–2), Brittain grew into artistic maturity during the years immediately after the 1929 stock market crash plunged his home town, Saint John, New Brunswick, into crisis. The Depression reinforced his interest in ordinary, anonymous people, whose lives he drew and painted with sympathetic insight. This commitment to his immediate environment offered a strong regionalist vision, in contrast to the dominance of nationalist wilderness landscapes by the Group of Seven and their followers. His works inspired by biblical subjects (1940s–50s) are among the finest Canadian religious images of the century. In the 1940s he participated in important national art projects: he attended the historic Kingston Artists' Conference, the first national gathering of arts professionals (1941); was active in the North American mural revival; and was one of Canada's 32 official war artists. His wife's death in 1957 threw him into despair, and his art subsequently became increasingly eccentric and fantasist.
From The Oxford Companion to Canadian History in Oxford Reference.
Subjects: History of the Americas.