Randolph Hewton

Randolph Hewton

Laurentian Homestead
Oil on canvas, 1938
12.25 x 14 in


Randolph Hewton – Born at Megantic, Quebec, his family moved to Lachine near Montreal. He studied under William Brymner at the Art Association of Montreal in 1903 and he won the Wood Scholarship. He received financial assistance from friends at Lachine which made possible his study in Paris at the Academie Julian under Jean Paul Laurens (1908-1910) and under Caro Drevaille (1910-1913). Randolph Hewton spent his fifth winter in Paris in his own studio enlarging some of his sketches and painting several large canvases which he later exhibited jointly with A.Y. Jackson in Montreal. He met A.Y. Jackson (who was painting around Estaples) on a visit to Paris in 1912, and Jackson on future visits to the city stayed at Hewton’s studio. Later they arrived back in Canada about the same time. Their joint exhibition in Montreal in 1913 brought adverse criticism, not sympathetic to the French school of painting, and was financially unrewarding. They were faced with the grim consideration of giving up their painting but neither man intended to nor did. Randolph Hewton however, went to work in his uncle’s firm. But before settling into the job he and Jackson took another sketching trip to Emileville, Quebec, then they parted. Jackson went to Toronto in 1913.

By 1915 both men were in uniform. Hewton enlisted in the 24th Batallion and Jackson a few months later in the 60th. After serving overseas Hewton obtained a transfer to the 7th London Regiment in 1917, and received a commission. It was thought by some of his friends that he was too gentle and refined to survive army life. He won the Military Cross in 1918, for gallantry during the Somme offensive. After the armistice he obtained a week’s leave to make some drawings, of the battle­fields, which A.Y. Jackson described as ‘vigorous.’ After the war Hewton went to work for the paper box makers of Miller Brothers (1918-1921) and became President of the firm in 1921 – the same year he was elected an Associate of the Royal Cana­dian Academy.

In 1920 Randolph Hewton had been an invited exhibitor with the first Group of Seven exhibition. His landscapes shared the distinct sympathy for the new discovery of Canadian scenery. He again turned to art when he was appointed Principal of the Montreal Art Association (1921-1924). But the opening of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in the same city brought the Art Association school to an end. By 1926 he had returned to Miller Brothers as President; had married Isobel Monk (nee Robertson) and continued to paint when he could.

In 1933 his firm moved to Glen Miller, Ontario. He was held in high regard by his fellow workers at the plant as A.Y. Jackson8 explained, “Officers of the company assured me that Hewton put new life into the business, had the mill and company houses painted in cheerful colours, improved working conditions and was popular as well as efficient.” He would go sketching with Albert Robinson and A.Y. Jackson or with Dr. Frederick Banting and Jackson.9 A.Y. Jackson related how Hewton and Banting spoofed one another how each won the Military Cross.10 Perhaps Hewton’s greatest contribution as a painter was in the field of figure and portrait painting.

In 1932 the Arts Club of Montreal held an exhibition of his portraits, landscapes, decorations and figure studies and The Seigneur10 carried a reproduction of one of these canvases entitled “Benedicta” with the following caption, “All too few are the canvases which this brilliant young Montreal artist presents for the public eye, and it is not surprising that his latest picture is attracting such unusual attention. His subject portrays a daughter of Old Quebec, using the waters and the banks of the St. Lawrence as a magnificent background. There is a flow to the figure reminiscent of the old masters ‘Madonnas’ surmounted by a distinct touch of modernity. The artist finds his best expression in strong, free lines and this work is no exception . . . . If you have not already guessed it, the model for this study was Mrs. Hewton for whom it was named . . . .” This portrait was indeed a fine study of his beautiful wife. Other of his works included portraits of the late Mrs. Vincent Massey; Mrs. Audrey (Buller) Parsons; Miss B. Warner; Miss Ethel Williams, and he painted Lionel and Hart Massey together as young boys; A.Y. Jackson’s portrait; a number of nude studies one of which the National Gallery of Canada owns.

An exhibition of his work took place at the Walter Klinkhoff Galleries from October 3 to 18th, 1961 when A.Y. Jackson wrote the foreword to the exhibition catalogue. The Art Gallery of Hamilton held an exhibition of his work in 1947 and his work was shown elsewhere. Today he is represented in the collections of The National Gallery of Canada who have six (possibly more) canvases; The Quebec Provincial Museum; The Art Gallery of Ontario, other public, and private collections. He was a member of the Art Club, Montreal, The Royal Canadian Academy (R.C.A. 1934) and the Canadian Group of Painters (founding member).

Biography courtesy of: National Gallery of Canada

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