Ad Code: 3
Polynesian Girl - 17" X 24" oil on masonite, signed (circa 1950)
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Ronald York Wilson RCA, OSA, CGP, ALC (1907 – 1984)|
Ronald York Wilson was a painter, commercial artist and muralist who was born in Toronto and after much traveling returned there in the last years of his life (1982). He also had a home in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and a studio in New York City. His mediums were oil, acrylic, watercolor, ink, collage, chalk, pencil, lithograph, charcoal and much more. His subjects were pure abstract, seascapes, landscapes, nudes, figures, portraits, historical, and social commentary. His styles abstract expressionism, geometric abstract, primitive and representational.
He studied at the Central Technical School in Toronto with Fred Challener, Peter Haworth and Alfred Howell. His first job was at Brigden’s Engraving House (1926) where he was further influenced by the artists Charles Comfort and Will Ogilvie. He moved from there to Sampson-Matthews, where he worked with Franklin Carmichael and A.J. Casson, both members of the Group of Seven. He has traveled extensively in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, the West Indies, and Africa; on several occasions for extended periods of up to 4 years. He has also traveled to northern Canada and numerous times to Mexico, before moving there the 1970’s. In 1950 he left commercial art and became a full-time painter.
He was best known for his commissioned murals which can be seen at McGill University's library (Montreal), The Imperial Oil Building (Toronto), the O’Keefe Centre for the Performing Arts (now the Sony Centre) (Toronto), Bell Canada (Toronto), the Ontario government at Queen's Park (Toronto) and Carleton University (Ottawa).
He was a member of the Ontario Society of Artists from 1942 and its President in 1946; and a member and President (1967) of The Canadian Group of Painters. He was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy in 1948. He was also a member of the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto.
He exhibited his work continuously with the above organizations, starting in 1931 with the RCA. This includes over 60 solo shows and over 500 group shows. The venues have included the National Gallery of Canada (numerous shows); the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts; the New York World’s Fair (1939); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (1947); The Excelsior, Mexico (1949); The Carnegie International, Pittsburgh (1952); L’Art au Canada Bordeaux, France (1962); the Bieniale do Museo de Arte Moderna Sao Paolo (1963); Palacio Bellas Artes, Mexico (1969); Birla Museum, India (1970); Musee Beaux Arts, Le Havre (1970); Centre George Pompidou, Paris (1978); and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy (1981). In addition there was a traveling retrospective in Canada in the 1970’s that visited 9 museums.
His work is in many private, corporate and public collections. Some of the public collections are The National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; The Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Musee d’Art Moderne, Paris, France; Museo del Arte Moderno, Mexico; Museo Eduardo Westerdahl, Spain; Birla Museum, India; Tanaka Museum, Japan; Uffizi Gallery, Italy; Art Gallery of Nova Scotia; Art Gallery of Windsor; Calgary Art Gallery; Edmonton Art Gallery; Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston; Hamilton Art Gallery; Musee d’Art Contemporain, Montreal; Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon; Vancouver Art Gallery; The McMichael Collection, Kleinburg; The Winnipeg Art Gallery and many more.
His honors include a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Ontario Society of Artists; and the Centennial Medal of Canada (1967).
As one of Canada’s most prominent artists there are many books about Canadian art and art history that discuss his work and its influence. In addition there are numerous newspaper and magazine articles, television interviews and documentary films. Some book examples are: The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar, published by Westbridge Publications Ltd. (4Volumes); Falk's Who Was Who in American Art (3 volumes); and Jaques Cattell Press, Who's Who in American Art 15th Edition (1982), published by R.R.Bowker Co. total pages 1204. His work is also discussed and illustrated in Four Decades (1972) by Paul Duval, published by Clark Irwin & Co. Ltd. (191 pgs, color); and in Art Gallery of Ontario – the Canadian Collection, published by McGraw-Hill Co. of Canada Ltd. (603pgs,B&W). In addition there is the book York Wilson (1978) by Paul Duval, published by Wallack Gallery, Ottawa (167 pgs,colour) and the book York Wilson – His life and Work, 1907 – 1984) (1997), by Lela Wilson, published by Carlton University Press (294 pgs B&W). He also illustrated the book Face at the Bottom of the World (1967), poems by Hagiwara Sakutaro, translated by Graeme Wilson.
Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke
|Biography from Odon Wagner Gallery:|
|Ronald York Wilson was born in Toronto on December 6, 1907.
Following two years of formal education in art at Central Technical
School in Toronto, Wilson began a successful career as a commercial
artist at Brigden’s, later moving on to Sampson-Matthews, where he
worked alongside Franklin Carmichael and A.J. Casson, members of the
Group of Seven. This formative experience in the competitive
field of illustration allowed Wilson to develop his skills in a variety
of media, providing him with a solid technical foundation for his
subsequent career as an independent artist.|
shift to the world of Fine Art took place in the 1930’s, during a close
friendship with Ed Smith, an Upper Canada student. They went to
Detroit together and found work with various art agencies. They
visited art museums, read Fine-Art books, and York was able to take
advantage of Ed's more advanced knowledge of Fine Art.
first trip to Mexico in 1949 cemented his decision to leave commercial
art behind. The distinctive quality of light and intense colour
of Mexico soon became a powerful visual stimulant for Wilson, and even
the most abstract of his canvasses from this period bear witness to his
experience of the Mexican landscape. He spent several winters in Mexico
with his wife and constant companion, Lela.
A nomadic way of
life took over, with the couple living in Europe, the Middle and Far
East. Wilson's fascination with Mexico finally led him to purchase a
house in San Miguel de Allende in the early '70s. This did not
stop the globe-trotting couple who eventually returned to their home in
Toronto in 1982.
In spite of the fact that his work was almost
entirely abstract for most of the 1950s and 1960s, Wilson never fully
repudiated his figurative background, always drawing from a live model
at least one afternoon a week.
York's relentless experiments
with abstraction resulted in a highly eclectic body of work, including
a precise geometric style of painting which had been suppressed in
York's subconcious. He began showing evidence of more interest in
slightly conformist work until his return to Paris.
first and second nights sleeping in Luc Peire's atelier,(which the
couple were renting from their Belgian friend and painter,) York had
two dreams of conformist/geometric painting like nothing he had ever
seen before. The struggle to return to his own type of abstract
painting continued for 3 months, but the geometrics won, and York
eventually returned to Canada with about 50 studies, 2 serigraphs, a
tapestry and a vow not to exhibit anything for a year while he
evaluated the experiment. The geometric period ended in 1971 as
abruptly as it had started
York Wilson is well known to the
Canadian public for his murals. His reputation as a muralist
rests on a series of prominent public works dating from the mid-1940s
to the mid-1970s. This period saw the completion of murals for
Imperial Oil, the O’Keefe Centre for the Performing Arts (now the
Hummingbird Centre), Bell Canada, the Ontario government at Queen's
Park and Carleton University, where his mural PEACE was unveiled by
Buckminster Fuller. Despite the fame associated with the mural
work, he met with considerable success as an easel painter, and was
known to have described himself "first a painter, with a flair for
In keeping with his penchant for constant travel and
cultural exchange, Wilson did work that was well received
overseas, especially in France and Italy. In 1961, Wilson was
invited by the French government to mount a one-man exhibition in the
Paris gallery of his choosing, and in 1981 he was asked to paint a
self-portrait for the permanent collection at the Uffizi Gallery in
Florence. He regarded the Uffizi commission as the highest honour
he had received in his long career as a painter.
On his return
he was discouraged when he discovered that, despite a lifetime of
research and experimentation, his contributions to Canadian art
(introduction of new media, advanced painting techniques and fresh
outlooks and his earlier support of the Gallery), none of the 16 works
that the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) possessed were hanging in the Gallery. The
situation with the A.G.O. began while it was under the directorship of
W. Withrow, and continued despite York being widely acclaimed
internationally. He was further disappointed when, despite
requests from members of the A.G.O. Canadian Buying Committee, (of
which York had been a member), for his re-integration, he was not
invited to rejoin the Committee after his absences abroad. York is only
mentioned as a co-exhibitor with Jack Bush in a recent book on Canadian
Art by the Chief Curator of the A.G.O.
York Wilson died in 1984 at the age of 76.
** Reproduced from "YORK WILSON: A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO HIS LIFE AND WORK" www.yorkwilson.com **
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