The 1954 series: The artwork of Charles F. Comfort
Queen Elizabeth II was crowned at a time when the Bank of Canada was in need of new bank notes. It was an excellent opportunity for a re-design. Until that time, Canada’s bank notes had been designed by the companies that printed them. But in 1952, the Bank took the unprecedented step of approaching a prestigious artist to provide design ideas for their upcoming note series. They hired Charles F. Comfort.
Charles F. Comfort was born in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1900. In 1912, his family moved to Winnipeg where, two years later, Charles began working as an apprentice artist at a large commercial studio. In 1916, Comfort attended the Winnipeg School of Art and later the Arts Students League of New York. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s he built his skills as a landscape painter and established a reputation as a mural artist. From 1935 to 1938, he taught at the Ontario College of Art. He was also given a teaching position at the University of Toronto in 1936; a post he held, apart from his time in Europe as a war artist, until 1960. He was Director of the National Gallery of Canada from 1959 to 1965 and made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1972. Comfort passed away in 1994.
During 1952, Comfort produced a number of pencil and watercolour design models for the face of the new notes. Some were updates of the traditional style while others were radically modern treatments. The final face design was an assembly of traditional intaglio features organized in a clean and simple modern style with rich background tints. Comfort was ultimately responsible for the typography design and the composition.
The back of the notes was a more contentious endeavour. Comfort proposed several ambitious designs, some of which featured war memorial subjects and others with an ornamental background of coniferous branches with a scenic insert. Both the war memorial and the coniferous branch concepts were abandoned early-on in favour of a simple composition that mirrored the face design with a single, full-width landscape vignette.
The Canadian 1954 series stands out as some of the most beautiful bank notes ever produced. For a man with a reputation as a mural artist, it is ironic that Comfort’s bank note designs can arguably be considered his most popular works. After all, during the 1950s and 1960s, everyone carried a Charles F. Comfort piece in their pocket.
What was proposed was a complete about-face from the philosophy behind recent security printing. If photocopiers could easily deal with the colours and designs of the current series, then the next series should be bold and simple.
From windmills and solar panels to electric cars, signs of the green economy are all around us. Check out our resources for how to teach about the green economy.
Introduce important financial skills to your children, and help them plan for their futures with free resources from the Bank of Canada Museum and others.
COVID-19 has had an unprecedented effect on the economy: closing businesses, driving down demand and interrupting supplies. With news stories and popular culture addressing inflation and supply chain issues, now is the perfect time to explain this key economic concept to your high school students.
Few of us have ever met her, and it’s likely none of us are even remotely related to her. Yet, Canadians have carried her picture in their wallets for generations now. She’s Queen Elizabeth II and has been our monarch for over 70 years.
The Bank of Canada Museum is responsible for the National Currency Collection, and part of its mandate is to foster and develop that collection. Despite the challenges of collecting during a pandemic, curators at the Bank of Canada Museum have acquired some unique artifacts—including some that document the pandemic itself.
What is money—when you really stop to think about it? To understand how money works, and what it ultimately represents, we need to strip it down to its very basic function.