Sir Frederick Grant Banting

Sir Frederick Grant Banting

Deserted Farmhouse, Ste-Irenee Quebec
oil on panel, 1931,
8 1/4 x 10 1/2 in., 20.7 x 26.3 cm


Sir Frederick Grant Banting born in Alliston, Ontario, youngest child of Wm. T. Banting and Margaret Grant, he received his public and high school education in Alliston. He then studied medicine at the University of Toronto. When World War I was declared, while still a medical student, Banting enlisted in the Royal Canadian Medical Corps as a private. He was promoted to staff sergeant. Sir Frederick Grant Banting returned to University, and in 1916 graduated with his Bachelor of Medicine. With this phase of his medical studies complete he went back to the Medical Corps, trained for overseas service, and went to France with the 13th Field Ambulance. He was wounded during the battle of Cambrai in 1918, but continued to perform his duties. For his devotion to duty he was awarded the Military Cross. On his return to Canada he became Senior Intern in surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto. After finishing his internship he practised medicine in London, Ontario. With his theory of treating diabetes he went to work on the research to make insulin as part of the staff of Dr. J.J.R. MacLeod’s Laboratory in Toronto. In the autumn of 1921 he was successful in preparing insulin with co-worker Dr. Charles Best and received jointly with Dr. MacLeod the Nobel Prize for medicine. He divided his honours equally with Dr. Best. He was knighted in 1934. His interest in painting began about 1921 at London, Ontario. When he returned to Toronto he visited A.Y. Jackson to purchase a war painting and subse­quently became a friend. Similarly he visited Lawren Harris to discuss a work and they became friends. Banting shared an appreciation of the rugged Canadian landscape with both artists. He was a popular member of the Arts and Letters Club. He made his first sketching trip with A.Y. Jackson to the south shore of the St. Lawrence in 1927 and other towns including St. Fidele on the north shore. Later that same year they went to the Arctic on the steamer Beothic, a Canadian Government supply ship to the R.C.M.P. out­posts. On this trip they made sketches of the Arctic landscape with oils on birch panels, and also sketched in pen and ink. Banting titled his paintings with the places he sketched including: Craig Harbour, Ellesmere Island; Pond Inlet, Baylot Island; Eskimo tents at Etach and so on but many other paintings remained untitled. Jackson and Sir Frederick Grant Banting also painted at Great Slave Lake, Walsh Lake, Georgian Bay, French River and Sudbury districts. Banting once remarked to Jackson that when he was fifty he would leave research to the young scientists and take up painting full-time. But at age fifty while he was again serving with the Medical Corps in W.W. II he was killed in an air crash at Newfoundland in 1941 while travelling to the U.K. His paintings were later hung at the Academy of Medicine, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Queen’s University and elsewhere. In February of 1943 a retro­spective exhibition of his work was held at Hart House, U. of T. In recent years his paintings, drawings and serigraphs have commanded high prices in auction houses in Canada and abroad. Married: Marion Robertson (1924), one son; Henrietta Elizabeth Ball (1939), no children. His second wife, Henrietta (Lady Banting), following her husband’s death, studied and graduated from the U. of T. in medicine and became director of the cancer detection clinic at the Women’s College Hospital, Toronto.

Lady Henrietta Banting, Toronto
Kaspar Gallery,Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto


  • Hart House, University of Toronto, Exhibition of Paintings of the late Sir Frederick Banting, February 13 – March 1, 1943 NGC EX0379
  • Exhibition of Paintings by Sir Frederick Banting, K.B.E. (1891-1941), organized by Hart House, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont., with additions from private collectors, April 9 – 28 1943.

Colin S. MacDonald

A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, volumes 1-8 by Colin S. MacDonald, and volume 9 (online only), by Anne Newlands and Judith Parker National Gallery of Canada / Musse des beaux-arts du Canada

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