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 Harold Wellington McCrea  (1887 - 1969)

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Lived/Active: Ontario / Canada      Known for: landscape, portrait and history painting, cartoons, graphic art

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from Auction House Records.
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Harold Wellington McCrea was a painter, graphic artist, cartoonist and illustrator.  He was born in Peterborough, Ontario (60 miles east of Toronto), and died in Toronto, Ontario where he had lived and worked most of his life. (1)

His mediums were oil, tempera*, watercolor, and pen and ink*.  His subjects were landscape, snow scenes, industry, genre, portraits and historical subjects (2).  The landscape locations were in Ontario, Quebec, the Canadian West (Indians, farm and ranch life) and the Rocky Mountains. His style was Realism*. See AskART Image Examples for good illustrations of his work and footnote number 5 below for additional specific examples of the subjects.

His formal art education includes studies at the Ontario School of Art (c. before 1910) and the Art Institute of Chicago (c.1918 - 1920). He also took private lessons with William Cruikshank (see AskART).

He worked from 1910 to 1914 at the commercial art and design firm Grip Limited (Toronto) where he would have associated with future Group of Seven* members J.E.H. MacDonald, Arthur Lismer, Frank Johnston, Frederick Varley and Franklin Carmichael as well as Tom Thomson (see all in AskART), all of whom worked there during the same years (3).  He also worked for a newspaper in Alberta from 1914 to 1917 where his duties included being a cartoonist (4).  When he returned to Toronto in about 1920, he opened his own studio and worked as a freelance commercial artist and painter for the rest of his life.

He was a member of the Ontario Society of Artists* (1924) and of the Graphics Arts Club, which later became the Canadian Society of Graphic Art*. (5)

In addition to exhibiting with the above organizations he also exhibited with the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* in 1938.

His paintings are in many private collections.  They are also in several public collections including the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), La Pulperie Museum (Chicoutimi, Quebec), Beaulne Museum (Coaticook, Québec) and the Western Development Museum (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan). However, the Canadian Heritage Information Network, which shows a total of 53 Harold McCrea works in museums across Canada, indicates that the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), with 49, has by far the largest collection (6).


(1) He also lived in Alberta from 1914 to 1917.

(2) He was commissioned to do drawings for the Ford Historical Museum in Dearborn, Michigan (c.1918) and to paint a series of sixty oil paintings depicting Canadian life and history by the T. Eaton Company, a Toronto department store chain, (c.1929).  Source: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references).

(3) Source:  Individual biographies of those artists in The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar (see AskART book references).

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

(5) Source: Art Gallery of Ontario - The Canadian Collection (1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield (see AskART book references).

(6) Forty eight paintings were gifts of "the Estate of Lady Eaton" in 1977.  Their scope and subject matter is well illustrated by the titles some of which are: The Chateau Frontenac, William Lyon Mackenzie's Home, Montcalm's Home, Section of Battery Fort York, The FleetFort Rouille, Royal William Leaving Quebec, Alexander MacKenzie at the Pacific 1793, The Rug Seller, The Quilting Party, The Ploughman, Milking Time, The Round Up, Western Town,  A Quebec Village, The Papoose, Deserted Haida Village,  and The Chief, Blackfoot Tribe.  As several of the paintings were done on Masonite*, their date of creation is most likely no earlier than 1929.

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

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke


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