Bruce Fletcher
1937-

ART40579 Bruce Fletcher
Distributing gifts at Binh Ba 1967
AWM ART40579

Bruce Fletcher was born in Melbourne in 1937. He studied at Prahan College of Advanced Educated and privately under William Dargie, who had been an official war artist during the Second World War. Fletcher was the first of two official war artists appointed during the Vietnam War.

The Memorial first decided to appoint artists for Vietnam in July 1965, but Fletcher did not arrive there until March 1967. The delay was caused by a number of problems, including the need to draw up a shortlist of suitable artists, the decline of a commission by the Memorial's first choice Ray Crooke, and the requirement of the artists to undergo the same rigorous jungle warfare training as combat troops. The increasing unpopularity of the war was another factor.

Fletcher carried out his commission between February and September 1967. He returned to work for the Memorial again in 1970, when he executed a large commemorative painting of the Battle of Long Tan.

Fletcher worked mainly in fibre-tipped pen, though he did produce a number of oil paintings while in Vietnam. Only a few days after arriving he was badly injured when a captured Viet Cong weapon accidentally discharged on board a RAAF flight between Saigon and Vung Tau. Fletcher thus spent much of his tour in the hospital ward at Vung Tau, where he set about drawing the activities of the personnel at the base. His work includes quick sketches of tents and equipment and portraits of known and unknown sitters performing daily duties. In a series of oil portraits Fletcher portrayed soldiers kitted out and engaged in a variety of army duties. These were intended to show "types" of soldiers; the sitters may not always have performed the duties depicted.

After the Vietnam War Fletcher turned increasingly to portraiture and has received many commissions. He has been a lecturer at the Caulfield Institute of Technology and now lives in Melbourne.

AWM GIL/67/0547/VN Bruce Fletcher painting at the Australian Task Force base in Nui Dat, Vietnam, July 1967
AWM GIL/67/0547/VN