Post-Banff: wandering studios

Posted by Kitara Julian On 11:46 AM

We received some questions after the Banff posts, like “What happened to all those landscape paintings you did then? Your website only shows a few”. Another, “When was your first exhibition, and where?”, Did the doctor continue to back you after you returned to Toronto?” and “Did you have a studio?” That’s what I mean when we say these blogposts create themselves.

To answer the first question, I gave all my paintings to Dr. Wilfred S. Goodman, who had made the Banff 1959 experience possible in the first place. These paintings are now spread out amongst his extended family including five adult children and grandchildren. We are in the process of receiving digital images of these paintings and will post them onto my website once they've all arrived.

My first exhibition auspiciously took place at Galeria Alberto Misrachi Mexico City's oldest and finest galleries, in 1963. All works were large watercolours done in San Miguel de Allende. This was followed by my initial solo show of watercolours, at the First Unitarian Church in Toronto.

Before that, in 1958 and 1959, I’d participated in annual group shows each spring at Hart House with the Colour & Form Society (of which I was President for a year). The Colour & Form Society was an innovative group formed by emigrant artists.

In 1965 my first major exhibition took place at Roberts Gallery in Toronto, featuring watercolours, and acrylics on paper and canvas.

Then in 1966, Living Tapestry”, an acrylic on canvas (see photo) won First Prize at the major OSA (Ontario Society of Artists) exhibition held at the Toronto Art Gallery, now the AGO. One of the three jury members for this major OSA exhibition was none other than A.J. Casson, the last-surviving “Group of Seven” member. Since Casson was a renowned landscape and figurative artist, I felt all the more honoured to receive this Prize, and took pride in such recognition by him, for an abstract painting. (Keep in mind, this was just seven years after Banff 1959 and those changes in my style).

Speaking of 1959, to answer the question whether Dr. Goodman continued to sponsor me when I got back to Toronto, he paid for my tuition for the first semester at Ontario College of Art. But once the styles of my work changed in rapid succession (you could say ‘spiralling upward’ ), it was harder for him “to follow” me. And by now, understandably, his growing family (five children), and recently-acquired farm north of Toronto, needed his full attention.

The other question was, ‘Did I have a studio?’ No, I had to improvise. This was because of my nomadic way of living and shoestring budget. I moved from one place to another, renting rooms in boarding houses.

Also, in those days there were decrepit houses declared “unfit to live in”, but if the water source was still connected, I’d squat, and do my watercolours and acrylics (which also need that precious commodity: water). I lived in at least a dozen different dwellings within a few years - - - like a gypsy, without a permanent studio.

Hope this answers some of the questions which have come in from cyberspace. Signing off for now, Henri

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