Object Title
Canadian Soldier
Object Name
Frederick Horsman Varley
Date Made
Oil on Canvas
Catalogue Number

Height 101.6 cm x Width 81.3 cm


An informal 3/4 length portrait painting of a young Canadian soldier, seated and holding a rifle between his legs. The figure appears to be leaning back against a wall and has his head turned to his right (viewer's left), almost in profile. He wears a shallow, olive-green metal helmet with a chin strap, a heavy brown collared shirt, tan coloured webbing with perhaps a gas mask satchel strapped to the front, and brown pants. He holds the rifle in a relaxed manner, his left hand uppermost, the rifle angled from near bottom centre to right centre of the composition. The background is multi-hued brown suggesting tumbled walls. The painting is signed "VARLEY" in dark brown paint in the lower right corner. The painting is housed in a mid-20th century plain white wood frame.


In 1942, Varley sought work as a war artist from the Canadian Department of War Commissions and was hired to do some sketches for the Ministry of Information. Instead, he painted a series of portraits in oils that were unwanted by the Ministry. To do so, he borrowed money to purchase supplies and traveled to Kingston, where he borrowed the studio of André Biéler, Queen's University's artist-in-residence.

The subject of this painting, Private Clare Wall, was surprised to be pulled from the ranks on parade at Camp Barriefield and assigned to sit for his portrait every morning for ten days. He later recalled: "He [Varley] called me to the easel to view the completed painting, at which time he pressed his right thumb print into the wet oil paint at the lower right corner of the canvas. This he told me was his own personal trademark along with his name".