|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|William Edwin Atkinson OSA, ARCA, CAC was a painter and draftsman. He was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where, other than for education and travel, he lived his whole life and died. His teachers included Thomas Eakins and William Bouguereau; he even had a brief association with Paul Gauguin [see footnote 1.2]. Most comprehensive Canadian art history books discuss Atkinson, and his works are in numerous Canadian museums. (1)|
His mediums included oil, watercolor, ink, graphite and gouache*. His subjects were landscapes, villages, street scenes, farms, rivers, beaches, boats, still life, genre* and natural atmospheric effects such as dawn, dusk and moonlight. His styles included Tonalism* and Realism*. AskART has excellent illustrations of his work. (2)
Atkinson’s art education included studies at the Ontario School of Art*, Toronto (1881) under John A. Fraser (see AskART) and Robert Harris (see AskART); the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts*, Philadelphia (1883 – 1884) under Thomas Eakins (see AskART); the Académie Julian*, Paris (1889 – 1890) under William Bouguereau (see AskART) and Gabriel Ferrier (see AskART); and the Académie Delance, Paris (1890) under Paul Delance (see AskART). (3)
In addition to France and the USA, his travels included Holland and Belgium in 1897; and England from 1898 to 1901, in 1907, and from 1911 to 1912 (see footnote 2.2 for additional travel information). (4)
He was a member of the Ontario Society of Artists* (1892 – 1907), an Associate member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* (admitted – 1894, resigned – 1914, reinstated – 1918), and a founding member of the Canadian Art Club* (1907 – 1915). (5)
He exhibited with the Ontario Society of Artists* (1882 –1922), the Paris Salon* (1890 – 1891); the Toronto Industrial Exhibition [now Canadian National Exhibition] (1891 – 1902); the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* (1893 – 1923); the spring shows of the Art Association of Montreal [now Montreal Museum of Fine Arts] (1897 – 1926); the Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto (1903 – 1925); and the Canadian Art Club (1908 – 1915). (6)
His works were also in the “World’s Columbian Exposition”*, Chicago (1893); the “Pan-American Exposition”*, Buffalo, New York (1901); and the “Louisiana Purchase Exposition”*, St. Louis, Missouri (1904).
Posthumously, his paintings were included in “Canadians in Paris, 1867 – 1914” at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1979). (7)
Atkinson’s works are frequently traded on the Canadian auction market, they are in numerous private collections, and they are in several important public collections.
According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* and individual museum websites, there are William Edwin Atkinson works in the permanent collections of the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario), Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), Confederation Centre Art Gallery & Museum (Charlottetown, P.E.I.), Mackenzie Art Gallery (Regina, Saskatchewan), McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario), Mendel Art Gallery (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), Museum London (Ontario), Ottawa Art Gallery (Ontario), Owens Art Gallery (Sackville, N.B.), Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario), The Market Gallery (Toronto), Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery (Owen Sound, Ontario), Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba) and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa).
(1.1) Source: The Canadian Heritage Information Network*; “The National Gallery of Canada: Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture, Volume III” (1960), by R.H. Hubbard; “Early Painters and Engravers in Canada” (1970), by J. Russell Harper; and “A Concise History of Canadian Painting” (1973), by Dennis Reid (see AskART book references).
(1.2) Atkinson’s association with Gauguin is described in “The National Gallery of Canada: Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture, Volume III”, as “… a brief contact with Gauguin at Pont-Aven in 1890.” In Early Painters and Engravers in Canada, Atkinson is described as a “member of the anti-Gauguin faction of Brittany painters.” Both entries may be based on a May 1, 1926 Star Weekly [Toronto] interview with Atkinson [he died on July 31] in which he recounts several friendly and lively encounters with Gauguin in Pont-Aven. During them, Gauguin critically examined Atkinson’s work and provided suggestions on the use of color. While anyone looking at Atkinson’s paintings can plainly see that any advice given was not utilized, never-the-less, Atkinson was acquainted with Gauguin during the highpoint of the development of Synthetism, which is unique for a Canadian artist. The biographies of eight other major Canadian Artists [G.A. Reid, Blair Bruce, J.W. Morrice, Maurice Cullen, Edmund Morris, Paul Peel, A.C. Williamson and E.W. Grier] who were either living or studying in Paris or Pont-Aven during the same two years do not mention Gauguin.
(1.3) “Pont-Aven is a coastal town in north-west France which Paul Gauguin frequented between 1886 and 1894. With a group that included Emile Bernard and Paul Sérusier he developed a Synthetic style of painting that emphasized, through bold outline and simplified structure, a symbolic and emotional response to the Breton people and landscape.” Source: Tate Modern.
(2.1) Sources: AskART Images; and museum illustrations and descriptions of mediums in the Canadian Heritage Information Network* data base.
(2.2) Some of the geographic place names (outside of Ontario) attached to his paintings are: Isle d'Orleans [Quebec]; Quimperle, Brittany, France; Devon [England]; Polperro, Cornwall [England]; Bruges [Belgium]; Pont-Aven [France]; Normandy [France]; Paris [France]; “Swiss Village”; and New Jersey [USA]. Though he studied in the USA, we could only find one museum or auction result painting with a noted US location, this one is in the collection of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.). Sources: Ibid.
(3) Education sources: “Those Were the Days...” magazine article, Star Weekly [Toronto], May 1, 1926; The Fine Arts in Canada (1925), by Newton MacTavish; Canadian Art - Its Origin and Development (1943), by William Colgate; The National Gallery of Canada: Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture, Volume III (1960), by R.H. Hubbard; Early Painters and Engravers in Canada (1970), by J. Russell Harper; and A Concise History of Canadian Painting (1973), by Dennis Reid (see AskART book references).
(4) Travel sources: A Concise History of Canadian Painting (1973), by Dennis Reid; and Early Painters and Engravers in Canada (1970), by J. Russell Harper (see AskART book references).
(5.1) Association sources: Canadian Men and Women of the Time: A Handbook of Canadian Biography of Living Characters (1912), edited by Henry James Morgan; Art Gallery of Ontario – The Canadian Collection (1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield; Early Painters and Engravers in Canada (1970), by J. Russell Harper; and Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members, 1880 – 1979 (1981), by Evelyn de R. McMann (see AskART book references).
(5.2) Please note: Atkinson’s dates of membership with the RCA vary considerably by source, complicated by the fact that he resigned and was, several years later, reinstated. Some of the initial membership dates used are 1893, 1894, 1897, 1902 and 1918. We are using the dates provided in Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members, 1880 – 1979 (1981), by Evelyn de R. McMann (see AskART book references).
(5.3) Please note: All members of the Canadian Art Club* resigned their OSA memberships in 1907 (see glossary).
(6) Exhibition sources: Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members, 1880 – 1979 (1981), by Evelyn de R. McMann; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts: Spring Exhibitions 1880 – 1970 (1988), by Evelyn de R. McMann; and Early Painters and Engravers in Canada (1970), by J. Russell Harper (see AskART book references).
(7) Source: The Art Gallery of Ontario (catalogue summaries online).
Additional sources: Painting in Canada: a History (1966), by J. Russell Harper; A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald; Passionate Spirits: A History of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, 1880 – 1980 (1980), by Rebecca Sisler; Art and Architecture in Canada (1991), by Loren R. Lerner and Mary F. Williamson; The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar; Biographical Index of Artists in Canada (2003), by Evelyn de Rostaing McMann (see all in AskART book references); and Charles C. Hill, Curator of Canadian Art, National Gallery of Canada [by email].
* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see AskART.com. Glossary http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx.
Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.
|** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.|