Harold Town

Harold Barling TOWN, R.C.A. O.S.A. O.C. (1924-1990)

The Cave of Longing
Lucite 44 on masonite, 1956
172.7 x 88.9 centimeters, 68 x 35 inches

Private collection Toronto, acquired directly from the artist.

Canadian National Exhibition Fine Art Gallery, August 20th to September 6th, 1958, J.W.G. MacDonald Room, #19 Gallery 1, selected for exhibition by Jock MacDonald.

Catalogue and Guide, ART GALLERY 1958, Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto, P4.

William Withrow, director of the art Gallery of Ontario 1961-1990, wrote: “Town’s ability as a draftsman is undisputed. And his single autographic prints, produced between 1955 and 1957, were surely among the most beautiful art objects ever made by a Canadian artist.” (Contemporary Canadian Painting Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Limited, 1972, p.76)

Biography : Harold Town was born in Toronto in 1924 and studied at the Western Technical School and Ontario College of Art (grad. 1944). After a short stint drawing “Minute Man” for Whiz Comics (1943), Town began his career as a free-lance commercial artist, doing illustrations and covers for Mayfair and Maclean’s and other magazines. During the 1950s, he became known for his single autographic prints, and he had his first solo show at the Picture Loan Society in 1954. In 1953, he was a founding member of the Painters 11 (along with Jack Bush, Oscar Cahen, Hortense Gordon, Tom Hodgson, Alexandra Luke, Jock Macdonald, Ray Mead, Kazua Nakamura, William Ronald, and Walter Yarwood). In 1956, he was chosen to represent Canada at the Venice Biennale, and in 1957 and 1961 at the Sao Paulo Biennale.

In 1960, he had a solo show at the Norman McKenzie Art Gallery in Regina and, in 1961, one at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. His first solo show in New York was at the Andrew Morris Gallery in 1962.

Town won a number of mural commissions in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including ones for the St. Lawrence Seaway Power Project in Cornwall, the North York Public Library, the Telegram Building in Toronto, and Malton Airport. He also illustrated an anthology of love poems for McClelland and Stewart, Love where the nights are long (1962), and designed the sets and costumes for a National Ballet of Canada production of The house of Atreus (1964).

Collections of his work have been published as Enigmas (1964), Harold Town drawings (1969), and Silent stars, sound stars, film stars (1971). Town wrote about the Toronto artist Albert Franck in his book Albert Franck: keeper of the lanes (1974) and collaborated with David Silcox on a book about Tom Thomson, The silence and the storm (1977). He contributed a regular column to Toronto Life, 1966-1967, and reviews to the Globe and Mail, in addition to other journalism pieces.

As well as being a member of the Painters 11, Town was a member of the Canadian Society of Graphic Art and the Art Directors’ Club of Toronto (and served on their executives in the 1950s); he was also a member of the Canadian Group of Painters, the Ontario Society of Artists, and the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Retrospectives of his work were shown at the Art Gallery of Windsor in 1975 and at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1986; in 1987, an exhibition, Harold Town: works on paper, was held at the Canada House Gallery in London, England. Christopher Chapman’s film, Pyramid of roses, featuring Town’s Vale variations series, was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 1980.

Chosen five times to represent Canada in major international exhibitions (Venice, Sao Paulo and Documenta III, Kassel, Germany), Harold Town exhibited widely internationally, and won prizes for his work at the International Exhibition of Drawings and Prints in Jugoslavia, 1957, at Sao Paulo, 1957, at the International Exhibition of Drawings and Prints in Lugano, 1958, in New York (Guggenheim), 1960, and at the Bienal Americana de Grabado in Santiago, 1963. Town’s work is held in collections at the National Gallery of Canada; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, Sao Paulo; Cleveland Museum of Art; Detroit Art Institute; Vancouver Art Gallery; Guggenheim Museum, New York: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; le Museum des Beaux-arts, Montreal; and in many other Canadian and international collections. Town received an honorary degree from York University in 1966 and the Order of Canada in 1968.

Harold Town

Harold Town

Bio: Colin S. MacDonald
Courtesy National Gallery of Canada

For further information on the Painters Eleven, click on the following link: www.painters-eleven.com

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