Here is past Combat Gallery Sunday artist Alex Colville with his haunting painting, Tragic Landscape (oil on canvas 61 x 91 cm, painted in 1945) depicting a fallen German Fallschirmjäger in the tail end of the war, who has already been picked clean of his boots.
A Canadian military combat artist who landed in France in August 1944 and worked his way into Germany largely on foot, to Buchenwald and beyond, Colville saw the war up close and personal.
“I remember the paratrooper lying in a [Deventer] field,” recalled Colville in a 1980 interview. “He was about twenty. They [the Germans] would fight right to the very end; they had put up a tremendous fight until they were all killed.”
David Alexander Colville was born 24 Aug 1920 in Toronto. A young man when WWII erupted in 1939, he enlisted in the Canadian Army in 1942 upon graduation from Mount Allison University. Serving in Northwestern Europe with the 3rd Canadian Division, he was made an official war artist in 1944, He landed in Southern France, saw action in Nijmegen during Market Garden (where his unit relieved the 82nd Airborne) and continued into Germany, where he saw first hand the horror of the Bergen Belsen concentration camp.
His works for the military were gritty and showed the hand of a man familiar with the subject matter as he was actively submerged in it.
In 1982, Alex Colville donated his remaining wartime drawings and sketches to the Canadian War Museum to join those that had already become part of the War Art Collection. These were works that he had not been required to hand over to Canadian War Records officials. The Museum now holds 371 works on paper by this artist.
Colville died 16 July 2013 at age 92, and we are lesser for it.