Memorable Manitobans: Robert Donald Bruce (1911-1980)
Artist and illustrator.
Born at Grandview on 17 April 1911, son of Robert Alexander Bruce and Alice Mabel Coxworth, he grew up in Winnipeg. He was enrolled at the Winnipeg School of Art from 1928 to 1931. In the mid-1930s he departed for London, England, where he worked as a freelance illustrator. He returned to Canada in 1940. Shortly thereafter he became head of art at the Winnipeg Free Press. In 1943 he painted his first Winnipeg mural, and murals always were his most important work. He served as an official war artist during the Second World War although he never went abroad.
After the war he studied in New York City, then taught art at the University of Buffalo from 1949 to 1955. He returned in 1955 to teach at the School of Art at the University of Manitoba, retiring in 1976. During his period of time at Winnipeg, he lived at 272 Yale Avenue from 1955 to 1971. He and wife Melba Armour Cumberland (1911-1997) had two children: artist Katharine M. Bruce and Robert C. “Bob” Bruce.
He died at Tacámbaro, Michoacán, Mexico on 30 October 1980 and was buried there. A collection of his papers is held at the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections.
Birth and marriage registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
Obituary [Melba A. Cumberland], Winnipeg Free Press, 1 May 1997, page 37.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
We thank Susan Bracken and George Tacik for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 17 January 2021