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 Thomas Keith Roberts  (1909 - 1998)

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Lived/Active: Ontario / Canada      Known for: landscape, still life, genre, urban and rural scene painting

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Ad Code: 3
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from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Thomas Keith Roberts ARCA, OSA (1909 – 1998)

A popular Canadian painter, draftsman, printmaker and educator, Thomas Keith Roberts (aka: Tom Roberts) was born in Toronto, Ontario and died in Mississauga, Ontario (suburb of Toronto). He lived in or near the ‘Greater Toronto Area’ his whole life. For over three decades, Roberts’ works were regularly included in exhibitions with the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts*, the Ontario Society of Artists*, and the Art Association of Montreal*. He was listed in the Canadian Who’s Who books from 1967 until his death in 1998 and his works are in several Canadian museums. (1)

His mediums were oils, watercolors, tempera*, acrylics, pencil, charcoal, serigraph* and linocut*. His best known subjects were landscapes, still life, genre*, harbors, forests, urban scenes and rural scenes; and during World War II – army life. Most of the painting locations are in Ontario, Quebec and Canada’s eastern Maritime Provinces. However, he also did some paintings depicting locations in western Canada and in Bermuda. His styles were Impressionism*, Plein Air Painting* and Realism*. The AskART images are excellent illustrations of his oeuvre. (2)

His art education included studies at the Ontario College of Art* (evening classes Tuesdays and Thursdays – September to December 1928), under Yvonne McKague Housser, Robert H. Holmes, Franz Johnston and Frederick Stanley Haines; at Central Technical School, Toronto (1929 – 1932), under Peter Haworth, Charles Goldhammer, Bobs Cogill Haworth and Carl Schaefer; and at Port Hope Art School [aka: Ontario College of Art Summer School], Port Hope, Ontario (1938), under John William Beatty. (3)(4)

After leaving Central Technical School, Roberts became a full-time artist and, though teaching was not a major component of his career, in the 1930s and 1940s he had three part-time teaching jobs. They were at Killarney Mountain Camp (for adults) on Georgian Bay for one summer (1934); at Onondaga Camp (for boys) on Bob Lake for eleven summers (1935 – 1945); and at the Kiwanis Boys Club, Toronto for two nights a week (1937).

Roberts was a member Ontario Society of Artists* (1944) and an Associate Member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* (1945). For several decades after becoming a professional artist, he exhibited regularly with the Ontario Society of Artists* (1929 – 1967), the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* (1930 – 1967), the Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto (from 1931), and the Art Association of Montreal* (1932 – 1961). Throughout his life, his works were exhibited in solo and group exhibitions at numerous prominent commercial galleries across Canada, such as Roberts Gallery, Toronto; Eaton's Art Gallery, Toronto; D & E Lake Ltd. Fine Arts, Toronto; Wallack Galleries, Ottawa; Continental Gallery, Montreal; Manuge Gallery, Halifax; Richardson Art Gallery, Winnipeg; Alex Fraser Galleries, Vancouver; The Art Emporium, Vancouver; and Park Gallery, Vancouver.

Roberts’ works are in many private collections. They are also in corporate collections such as Ford Motor Company Limited, Seagram's Limited, and Imperial Oil Limited; and, his works are in several museum collections. According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* and individual museum catalogues and websites, his works are in the permanent collections of the Art Gallery of Mississauga (Ontario), Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), Macdonald Stewart Art Centre [University of Guelph Art Collection] (Guelph, Ontario), Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art (Hamilton, Bermuda), McIntosh Gallery (University of Western Ontario, London), Musee de la Civilisation (Quebec City), Owens Art Gallery (Sackville, N.B.), Royal Alberta Museum (Edmonton, Alberta), The Market Gallery (Toronto), and the Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery (Owen Sound, Ontario). (5)

Among Roberts’ awards is the Rolph Clark Stone [Limited] Purchase Award ($500.00) for best of show, Ontario Society of Artists (1949).
(1) Tom Robert’s paternal grandfather was Samuel Roberts the founder of Roberts Gallery* (Toronto) in 1842. Tom Robert’s maternal grandfather was the artist Julius Humme. Sources: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists and East Georgian Bay Historical Journal – Volume 1 (see both in AskART book references).

(2) ‘During World War II Roberts served with the Royal Canadian Engineers (1942 – 1943) assigned to architectural drafting. In his spare time he portrayed army life with pencil sketches and water color paintings. After a year in the army he returned to civilian life and resumed his career as a full-time artist.’ Source: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (see AskART book references).

(3) Please note: Without any prejudice, our source for school dates and teachers is Tom Roberts: Perspectives on a Canadian Artist (see AskART book references). Our other sources cite the same schools, however the dates and teachers are slightly different or not mentioned; for example the following line from A Dictionary of Canadian Artists: “Later he studied three years at the Central Technical School, Toronto, under Peter Haworth, Charles Goldhammer, Robert Ross and Carl Schaeffer [sic]; one year at Ontario College of Art under F.S. Challener, J.W. Beatty, Yvonne McKague Housser and Fred Haines.”

(4) Please note: All artists mentioned in this biography and its footnotes have their own records in AskART.

(5) Please note: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists  and The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction, as well as several other sources, list the Art Gallery of Hamilton (Hamilton, Ontario) and Museum London [then the London Public Library and Art Museum] (London, Ontario) as collectors of Roberts’ works. However, as both museums are linked to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* and both museums have excellent online searchable collections, it was easy to see that no Tom Roberts works were in either museum collection. Nevertheless, because of the eminent reputation of the sources, the two museums as well as the London Public Library were contacted to see if maybe a Robert’s work in their collections had been over looked. All three kindly took the time to check it out and all three replied that they did not have any Tom Roberts works in their collections, nor could they explain how the error occurred. Sources: Emails from  Cassandra Getty, Curator of Art, Museum London; Deb Farr, Library Assistant, Arts & History, London Public Library; and Christine Braun, Manager, Collections and Exhibitions, Art Gallery of Hamilton.  
Biographical Index of Artists in Canada (2003), by Evelyn de Rostaing McMann (see AskART book references)

The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar (see AskART book references)

Tom Roberts: Perspectives on a Canadian Artist (2000), by Celia Roberts (see AskART book references)

Watercolor Basics: Let's Get Started (1999), by Jack Reid (see AskART book references)

Who Was Who in American Art, 1564 – 1975 (1999), by Peter Hastings Falk (see AskART book references)

Canadian Who’s Who – 1998 (1998), edited by Elizabeth Lumley (see AskART book references)

A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume 7, Rakos to Sadowski (1990), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references)

Canadian Who’s Who: Index 1898 – 1984 (1988), by Evelyn de R. McMann (see AskART book references)

Canadian Art Collection: The University of Western Ontario: Paintings, Drawings, Prints, and Sculpture from the Collection of the University of Western Ontario (1983), by Alexandra L Haldane (see AskART book references)

Toronto in Art: 150 Years through Artist’s Eyes (1983), edited by Edith G. Firth (see AskART book references)

"Who's Who in American Art 15th Edition" (1982), by Jaques Cattell Press (see AskART book references)

East Georgian Bay Historical Journal – Volume 1 (1981), edited by Irene Golas (see AskART book references)

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

The University of Guelph Art Collection: A Catalogue of Paintings, Drawings, Prints and Sculpture
(1980), by Judith M. Nasby (see AskART book references)

The Index of Ontario Artists (1978), edited by Hennie Wolff (see AskART book references)
Canadian Heritage Information Network* (Museums)

Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art* (OSA exhibitions)

Roberts Gallery, Toronto (CV)

Cassandra Getty, Curator of Art, Museum London (by email June 10, 2014)

Deb Farr, Library Assistant, Arts & History, London Public Library (by email June 11, 2014)
Christine Braun, Manager, Collections and Exhibitions, Art Gallery of Hamilton (by email June 12, 2014)

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

Written and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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