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 Walter Seymour Allward  (1876 - 1955)

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Lived/Active: Ontario / Canada/England      Known for: memorial, statue and portrait bust sculpture, graphics

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
The Storm, bronze, 13.25" x 8.5" x 15.25", signed, c.1920
Courtesy of the National Gallery of Canada
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Walter Seymour Allward CMG, LL.D, RCA (1876 – 1955)

Perhaps the preeminent Canadian monument sculptor of the early 20th century, Walter Seymour Allward was born in Toronto, Ontario, lived there most of his life, and died there. (1)

His most well-known mediums are bronze and stone public space statues, busts, sculptures and memorials. However, early in his career he created terracotta bas reliefs*, and there are dozens of his preparatory works in graphite, pen and ink, ink wash, colored pencil, plaster and blueprint in the collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto) and the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa).

His subjects were historic people, historic events, war, allegory*, nudes, figures, dreams, symbolism and portraits. His styles were Realism* and Surrealism*. The illustration on AskART’s summary page is a masterpiece, but it is an unusually small sculpture... for him; “The Storm” was created as a diploma work for the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

Allward is considered self taught; however he did study at Central Technical School, Toronto and he learned drafting while an apprentice at the architec­tural firm of Gibson & Simpson (c.1891 – 1894). (2)

He was a member of the the Arts and Letters Club, Toronto; the Canadian Art Club*, Toronto; and the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* (Associate – 1903, Academician – 1920, Senior Council Member – 1947). (3)

He also exhibited with the Ontario Society of Artists* and The Storm was shown at the “British Empire Exposition”, Wembley, England in 1924.

Recently, Allward’s works were included in the exhibitions “The Transformative Power of Art” at the Art Gallery of Ontario (2005); and “Canada Collects: Treasures from Across the Nation” at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (2007). They were also the subject of the 2005 exhibition “Vimy and After: Drawings by Walter Seymour Allward” at Gallery Stratford, Stratford, Ontario (and touring).

His honors include the Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George conferred by King George VI (1944); and honorary doctorates from Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario (1937); and the University of Toronto (1939). He is also the subject of the Jane Urquhart novel “The Stone Carvers” (2001), a fictional account of the building the Vimy Memorial in France (see AskART book references); and, in 2008, 53 years after his death, Allward’s design for one of the figures on the Vimy monument was chosen to use as the symbol for Canada on the obverse of the  Sacrifice Medal, which was created to recognize Canadian Forces members and support personnel killed or wounded in battle.

Attached below are biographies courtesy of the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives and of The Canadian Encyclopedia (online).

Biography courtesy of the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives

Walter Allward (1875 – 1955) was probably Canada's most important monumental sculptor in the first third of this century. Born in Toronto, he first worked as a draughtsman for an architectural firm and subsequently modeled terra cotta decorative panels for the Don Valley Brick Company.

His first commission was for the figure of Peace for the North West Rebellion Monument at Queen's Park, Toronto in 1894. While he later received commissions for portrait monuments [the Simcoe Monument (1896? – 1903), Sir Oliver Mowat (1899? – 1905) and J.S. Macdonald (1907 – 1909), all at Queen's Park], his preference was for more allegorical interpretations as evidenced in his South African War Memorial (1904 – 1910) on University Avenue in Toronto and the Baldwin-Lafontaine Monument (1907 – 1914) on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Yet his most notable early success was the Alexander Graham Bell Monument (1908 – 1917) in Brantford, Ontario.  In 1912 he was awarded the contract for the King Edward VII memorial in Ottawa of which only two figures, Truth and Justice, were cast in 1923 and which are now installed in front of the Supreme Court in Ottawa.

The most important commission Allward received was for the monument to Canadians killed in the First World War at Vimy, France, a project which would occupy him from 1921 to its unveiling in 1936 on the eve of the Second World War.

SOURCE: National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives

Biography courtesy of The Canadian Encyclopedia

Walter Seymour Allward, sculptor (b at Toronto 18 Nov 1876; d there 24 April 1955.) Known as "Allward of Vimy," Walter Allward gained his reputation largely on the basis of the mammoth Canadian Battlefields Memorial in Vimy, France (1922 – 36), that commemorated the important battle of Vimy Ridge (April 1917) and the over 11,000 Canadians listed as missing in action during the First World War. [4]

Early Work
Allward's early work included the figure of Peace on the North-West Rebellion Monument in Queen's Park, Toronto (1895); The Old Soldier, commemorating the War of 1812 in Portland Square, Toronto (1903); and a life-sized figure of Dr Oronhyatekha [1841 – 1907] (chief ranger) commissioned by the Independent Order of Foresters (1899).

His reputation well established, Allward was commissioned to execute busts for the Provincial Museum, Toronto, including busts of Lord Tennyson, Sir Charles Tupper, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Sir Oliver Mowat and others. Also on the grounds of Queen's Park are statues of General John Graves Simcoe (1903) and Sir Oliver Mowat (1905).

In 1903 Allward was elected an associate of the Royal Canadian Academy, and in 1918 became a full academician [3]. His diploma work, The Storm (c. 1920, bronze), is in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada [illustrated in AskART].

Heroic Monuments
Allward's real talent lay in his heroic monuments, which include The South African Memorial, Toronto (1910) (he also designed The Boer War Memorial Fountain in Windsor, 1906), The Bell Memorial, Brantford (1917), The Baldwin-Lafontaine Monument on Parliament Hill, Ottawa (1914) and a design for a King Edward VII memorial. The onset of the First World War prevented the completion of the latter, but two figures, Truth and Justice, were cast in bronze, and today flank the entrance of the Supreme Court Building in Ottawa. An almost identical figure of Justice was used on The Vimy Memorial years later.

Other memorials to the First World War include The Stratford Memorial (1922) and The Peterborough Memorial (1929). Allward won the Vimy commission in 1921 and moved to London, England, the following year, where he set up a studio. He made regular trips to Vimy over the next several years. The Vimy Memorial was unveiled 26 July 1936 by King Edward VIII in the presence of 6,000 Canadians who had travelled to witness the event.

Upon his return to Canada in August 1936, Allward designed the William Lyon Mackenzie Memorial in Queen's Park (1940), and a monument, which never materialized, to Sir Frederick Banting after his sudden death in 1941.

Author - Christine Boyanoski, The Canadian Encyclopedia


1. As noted above, while constructing the Vimy monument he moved to London, England where he had a studio and from which he frequently visited France (1921 – 1936).

2. "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists" (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald states: “He [Allward] studied painting under William Cruikshank, and sculpture under Emanuel Hahn ...” The Cruikshank claim could be correct as he was a teacher in Toronto when Allward would have been studying there and later they were good friends (Cruikshank was a godfather to one of Allward’s sons). However, the Hahn claim is probably a mistake, as Emanuel Hahn, born in 1881, was 5 years younger than Allward and Allward was already an established sculptor when Hahn was still in his mid teens. More likely correct are “The National Gallery of Canada: Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture, Volume III” (1960), by R.H. Hubbard which notes Emanuel Hahn worked as an assistant to Allward and "Art Gallery of Ontario – The Canadian Collection" (1970), by Helen Papal Bradfield which notes Emanuel Hahn studied under Allward. – MDS  

3. According to "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists" (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald; and “The National Gallery of Canada: Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture, Volume III” (1960), by R.H. Hubbard; and "The Fine Arts in Canada" (1925), by Newton MacTavish; and the “British Empire Exposition” catalogue (1924) – Allward became a full RCA Academician in 1914; however, according to “Passionate Spirits: A History of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, 1880 – 1980" (1980), by Rebecca Sisler; and "Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members, 1880 – 1979" (1981), by Evelyn de R. McMann – Allward became a full Academician in 1920. Sisler and McMann  could be right since their date agrees with the 1920 creation date of the diploma work “The Storm”, which would have been completed before the RCA designation was granted; on the other hand two of the other sources were published during Allward’s lifetime... – MDS

4. Veterans Affairs Canada (website) refers to it as the “Canadian National Vimy Memorial”.

Additional sources:

“Art and Architecture in Canada” (1991), by Loren R. Lerner and Mary F. Williamson (see AskART book references)

"Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members, 1880 – 1979" (1981), by Evelyn de R. McMann (see AskART book references)

“Passionate Spirits: A History of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, 1880 – 1980" (1980), by Rebecca Sisler (see AskART book references)

"A Dictionary of Canadian Artists" (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references)

“Creative Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth Century Creative and Performing Arts” (1972), by Helen M. Rodney (see AskART book references)

“The National Gallery of Canada: Catalogue of Paintings and Sculpture, Volume III” (1960), by R.H. Hubbard (see AskART book references)

“Canadian Art - Its Origin and Development” (1943), by William Colgate (see AskART book references)

"The Fine Arts in Canada" (1925), by Newton MacTavish (see AskART book references)

“British Empire Exposition “ (1924) catalogue (available online through the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives)

Canadian Heritage Information Network*

The Governor General of Canada website – for details about the Sacrifice Medal

The Art Gallery of Ontario (catalogue summaries online)

“Canadian Art in Public Spaces” (1990), thesis by Lane Borstad; Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario (online)

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.








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