NORMAN BETHUNE MURAL

Present whereabouts unknown


The mural once graced an entire wall at the Norman Bethune-Tim Buck Educational Centre, 24 Cecil St., Toronto, covering an area 19 x 7 feet. The work of gifted artist and cartoonist Avrom Yanovsky, it was dedicated to the Gravenhurst-born surgeon who pioneered and furthered techniques of blood transfusion close to and in the field of battle in the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). The Canadian volunteer blood transfusion unit saved many victims of the cruel bombings visited on the Spanish people. Later Bethune served in the struggles of the Chinese people against fascist Japan, where he gave his life. Bethune was an original spokesperson and advocate for the medicare we now enjoy, although ever-threatened. During the 1930s, he directly served the unemployed and welfare cases in street clinics in Montreal.

Yanovsky had studied with the American muralist Anton Refregier as well as Mexican muralists, and he was determined 
to pay tribute to Bethune in his art. Miraculously his mural survived a fire set by vandals in the old building. Speaking of his mural and its tribute to Bethune, Yanovsky has described Bethune as an example of


. . . the talented intellectual and professional who, on becoming a Communist, does not just donate his talents to the cause, but through and with his talents, not only actively joins in the people’s immediate struggle against war and fascism, but together with Communists the world over, wields the banner of Communism. I present the struggle for a better world in medical imagery. In the hands of Bethune, the Communist and doctor, the scalpel that heals the wounded fighters against war and fascism in Spain and China, becomes a weapon - a dagger to help destroy the scourge of humanity - the cancer of capitalism.

Norman Bethune College at York University and the Dr. Norman Bethune Collegiate in Toronto are only two of the institutions named for Bethune. At York University the college has a plaque inside the building honouring Henry Norman Bethune MD, FRCS (1890-1939). It was unveiled 13 November 1972. An excellent display case shows features of Bethune's life and describes Bethune as a “distinguished, innovative surgeon, humanitarian and internationalist” and “untiring servant of the people. The college name was decided by student vote.

Photo Credit (mural): John Reeves