Another evocative study of wartime London can be found in the richly detailed King's Cross Station. Air force personnel are shown getting ready for departure to northern England and the Bomber Command RAF and RCAF squadrons based in the counties of Yorkshire, Durham, and Lincoln. 

King's Cross Station CWM/MCG 11828

King's Cross Station

His official war art is generally imbued with a more serious purpose. As a memorandum sent to the artist on 30 March 1943 by a senior officer in charge of air force artists stated, his artistic responsibility lay officially in, "portraying historic scenes, events, phases and episodes in the experience of the R.C.A.F. overseas." (4) 

Castle Nicarne, RAF Sick Quarters CWM/MCG 11799 Victory in Iceland CWM/MCG 11887
Castle Nicarne, RAF Sick Quarters Victory in Iceland

Schaefer's painting Bomb Aimer, Battle of the Ruhr is probably his best known work in this vein. Worked up from a series of notes, sketches, and drawings, it features a bomb aimer's station in the nose of a Halifax Mk.III of No. 428 (RCAF) Squadron. The intense concentration and tension present in the figure create a moment of stillness in the maelstrom of flak, bomb bursts, incendiary fires, and searchlights before him. It is an extraordinary depiction of courage and perhaps best epitomizes the ambition that was expressed in the artist's diary entry for 16 April 1943. 

"I've felt like working more than ever. I want to achieve more imaginative results with this grim subject matter. It is the eyes of the soul, ever here."(5)

Bomb Aimer, Battle of the Ruhr CWM/MCG 11786

Bomb Aimer, Battle of the Ruhr

One of the most interesting collections of war art by Schaefer centres on his studies of aircraft and cloud formations. Many were completed during a single flight as he sketched furiously while the aircraft he was in climbed.

Cloud Over North Atlantic No.2 CWM/MCG 11803 Flying Against Berlin CWM/MCG 11819
Cloud over North Atlantic No.2 Flying against Berlin

During this flight he had the opportunity of observing evasive action practice first-hand from the cockpit of a Halifax bomber. It was an experience he was to put to good use in later, more thoughtful compositions. 

Fighter Affiliation No.4 CWM/MCG 11816 Mid Upper Gunner, R. Robert CWM/MCG 11838
Fighter Affiliation No.4 Mid Upper Gunner, R. Robert

Per Ardua Ad Astra - the title is a fitting epitaph for Carl Schaefer, war artist. The painting itself is an appropriate memorial for an important Canadian artist who, in the years of the Depression, experienced adversity before achieving deserved recognition as a painter of his country's overseas war of more than fifty years ago. Schaefer made a significant contribution to Canadian art both as an artist and teacher.

Per Ardua Ad Astra CWM/MCG 11886 Carl Schaefer CWM/MCG 11838
Per Ardua Ad Astra Carl Schaefer


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