Harold Town: the Wild One Exhibition (Part I: On-line release)

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Harold Town 25 April - 20 May, 2020

25 April - 20 May, 2020


TOWN the wild one

about the exhibition & Harold Town Some of the most important – and most wildly creative – examples of Canadian abstract art are the focus of HAROLD TOWN: THE WILD ONE at Calgary’s Wallace Galleries.


This new exhibition reflects the resurgence of interest in Harold Town. The controversial painter was a central figure in Painters Eleven, the Toronto collective that introduced abstract art to Canada in the 1950s. Town quickly became a celebrity in his own right, earning record prices for a living Canadian artist, and remaining in the public eye until his death in 1990. “Harold Town was the perhaps one of the most famous Canadian artist of his time,” says Colette Hubner, Director of Wallace Galleries. “More than an artist, he was a writer, raconteur and national media personality – stirring up controversy with his wicked sense of humour and his unconventional lifestyle.” There’s even a new website – haroldtown.com – describing him as “The Original Bad Boy of Canadian Art.” “Harold had the foresight to put aside some of the best pieces from each series he produced,” says Shelley Town. “Several pieces in the Wallace show come directly from the Estate and have rarely been seen publicly.”

The Hording Caper (#1761) 1959-60 mixed media on panel 48” x 36”



“Harold was controversial because he regularly contradicted the views and opinions of others,” says art historian and past president of Sotheby’s Canada, David Silcox. A friend of Town’s for over 30 years, Silcox knew him well. “Harold was intensely curious about everything, and he was perpetually innovative. No wonder people thought he was provocative and occasionally disruptive.”

Refraction (#2051) 1955 oil on board 42.5” x 28.5”



Over the years, Town represented Canada in exhibitions in Amsterdam, Brussels, Chicago, Dallas, Edinburgh, London, Madrid, Mexico City, Milan, Paris, Sao Paulo, Sydney, Tokyo, Venice, Vienna, Warsaw and Washington. He proved that Canada could produce innovative art that is relevant on the international stage, and he brought a new level of confidence and sophistication to the Canadian art scene. As for Town’s wild side, his daughter, Shelley Town, recalls him as an avid party-goer, a charmer and a flirt. “My father would often still be awake when we came down for breakfast. He’d be at the kitchen table, drinking Scotch and debating with his friends. He was a voracious reader and he could talk intelligently on any subject. He was a champion arguer. That’s where he often got into trouble, arguing with friends and critics at cocktail parties and in the press. But that never distracted him from his work, which remained the most important thing in his life.”


Exceptionally prolific, Town would often work on multiple series of paintings at the same time. He would focus on different projects at different times of day, sometimes in different locations – whether at his family home in Toronto’s Rosedale neighbourhood, at the legendary Studio Building (where several members of The Group of Seven had previously lived and worked), or at his farm in Peterborough, Ontario. “Harold had the foresight to put aside some of the best pieces from each series he produced,” says Shelley Town. “Several pieces in the Wallace show come directly from the Estate and have rarely been seen publicly.” 10

THE WILD ONE provides a fascinating overview of Town’s talents, showcasing some of his most well-known series, including prints, paintings and collages. The show gives a rare opportunity to view and purchase these truly significant works that Town considered some of his best. Among the highlights is a large selection of “Single Autographic Prints,” the pieces for which Harold first gained renown in the 1950s. Colourful, delicate and one-of-a-kind, these monographic prints were exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1956 and 1964, and several were acquired by the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. They became the initial cornerstone of Town’s success at home and abroad.

Interior With Hand Jug, (#7964) 1956 oil on linen 47” x 31”



Untitled (#11646), 1955, Single Autographic Print, 20” x 16”


Take Over, (#7705), 1957, Single Autographic Print, 20” x 16”

The Inventors First Idea, (#7914), 1956, Single Autographic Print, 20” x 16”


Untitled (#8491), 1955, Single Autographic Print, 20” x 16”


Dark Slice (#10117), 1958, Single Autographic Print, 20” x 16”


Untitled (#8491), 1955, Single Autographic Print, 20” x 16”


Slice Of The Sacred Oak One Only (#11625), 1956, Single Autographic Print, 20” x 16”

In the late 1960s, Town explored abstract expressionism with large-format paintings, featuring dramatic compositions of space and colour. His work was an always-expanding exploration of the various facets of his artistic vision. 18

For the “Snaps” series in the early 1970s, Town developed a technique of snapping a paint-soaked string against the canvas – a time-consuming and physically strenuous process based on the snapping of a carpenter’s chalk line. These paintings are particularly captivating with their vivid texture, depth and colour.


Forest Pendulum (#3308), 1960, oil on linen , 34” x 34”


Snap, Double Envelope, (#1915), 1976, oil on linen , 74” x 74”



“Snap18 (#1949)”, 1972, oil on linen, 64” x 64”

1. Untitled Snap (#2222), ca. 1973, oil on linen, 12” x 12” 2. Snap 71 (#2223), 1973, oil on linen, 12” x 12” 3. Untitled Snap (#2224), ca. 1973, oil on linen, 12” x 12”






Also in the 1970s, Town worked on the “Stretch� series of lithographs, featuring signature shapes that are stretched and elongated, creating dynamic colour relationships, often with a vibrating effect.


Stretch 1, 1971, silk screen AP 10, 28.25” x 40.25”


“People are surprised when they realize some these pieces are 50 - 60 years old,” says Colette Hubner. “They look so fresh and contemporary, they could have been painted today. But not many current painters have Town’s reputation.”


President Shape 2 (#2486), 1969-70, oil on linen, 22” x 25”

Park 29 (#2903), ca. 1971-2, oil on linen, 19.25” x 22”

Recent gallery shows have been bringing to light old stories about Town’s days of decadence in the 1960s and 70s. More significantly, the work itself is attracting new buyers, ranging from old-school collectors to high-tech entrepreneurs. 28

As David Silcox points out, “Harold was a remarkably intelligent, original and imaginative. His energy was boundless. It is no surprise that people envied his productivity and his ability to work in several different media at the same time. It is now possible to see clearly how high the level of Town’s talent was, right from the time of his emergence. Today we have an exciting opportunity to introduce Harold Town’s genius to a new generation.”


Untitled, (#2990), no Date, oil on lnene, 56” x 56”


Breath through On Mead Creek (#2032), 1980, oil on linen, 34” x 34”



Toy Horse (#11986), 1986, Silk screen 49/50, 12.5” x 13.5”


Toy Horse, Oct 18-20 (#7604), 1982, pen and ink on paper, 26” x 20”


Toy Horse, Feb9-10 (#9995) 1980 ink on paper, 30.5” x 22.5”

Toy Horse, Feb20-21 (#9997) 1980 ink on paper, 22.5” x 30.5”


C.V. (select) SELECT SOLO EXHIBITIONS (public): 36

1956 1957 1958 1960 1960 1962 1963 1964 1964 1966 1966 1967 1967 1967 1969 1970

Single Autographic Prints. Harold Town, Picture Loan Society, Toronto, ON Autographic Prints by Harold Town, Galerie L’Actuelle, Montreal, QC Two Canadian Painters: Paul-Emile Borduas and Harold Town, Arthur Tooth and Sons Ltd., London, England Harold Town: collages, paintings, prints, drawings, Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina,SK Salon d’automne: Nakamura and Harold Town, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts,Montreal, QC Harold Town, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Waterloo, ON Town: An Exhibition of Recent Paintings of the Theme of “The Tyranny of the Corner”, New Jersey Museum of the Arts, New Jersey, NY, USA XXXII Biennale de Venezia: Harold Town and Elza Mayhew, Venice, Italy Thirteen Paintings by Harold Town, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC Harold Town: Drawings and Prints, Macdonald Institute, University of Guelph,Guelph, ON Exhibition of Autographic Prints and Drawings in Brush, Pen and Ink, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Waterloo, ON Harold Town Paintings, Scarborough College, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON Exhibition of Autographic Prints, Hart House, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON Jean McEwen and Harold Town, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON Harold Town: Enigmas, Hart House, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON Retrospective Drawing Exhibition, Art Gallery of Windsor, Windsor, ON

1971 1971 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1986 1997

French Postcard Set - Girl on a Bicycle, Fleet Galleries, Winnipeg, MB Harold Town: Prints, Sarnia Public Library, Sarnia, ON Silent Stars, Sound Stars, Film Stars, Rothman’s Art Gallery, Stratford, ON Harold Town - A Selection, Art Gallery of Northumberland, Cobourg, ON Harold Town: The First Exhibition of New Work 1969-1973, Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, ON; London Public Library and Art Museum, London, ON; Rodman Hall Art Center, St. Catharines, ON; Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, ON; curator Kay Reid Harold Town: Lithographs and Serigraphs, Mazelow Gallery, Toronto, ON Indications: paintings, collage, drawings, prints, sculpture. Harold Town 1944-1975 Art Gallery of Windsor, Windsor, ON Harold Town. The Toy Horse. Works on Paper, Waddington Galleries, Montreal, QC Vale Variations, Robertson Galleries, Ottawa, ON Poets and Other People: Drawings by Harold Town, Art Gallery of Windsor, Windsor, ON Harold Town: Recent Paintings, Theo Waddington Galleries, Toronto, ON Portrait Drawings by Harold Town, Robertson Galleries, Ottawa, ON Harold Town: A Retrospective, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ON Harold Town: Magnificent Decade 1955-1965, Moore Gallery, Toronto, ON


C.V. (select, continued) SELECT GROUP EXHIBITIONS: 38

1958-59 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964

Painters Eleven. Toured by National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, to 7 national venues Painters Eleven with Ten Distinguished Artists from Quebec, The Park Gallery, Toronto ON 20th Biennial International Watercolor Exhibition, Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY Ille exposition internationale de gravure, Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana, Yugoslavia Savremena kanadska grafika, Belgrade and Ljubljana, Yugolslavia Painters Eleven, The Stable Gallery, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Montreal, QC Painters Eleven Exhibition, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Kitchener ON Toronto ‘61, Toronto Board of Education; touring 4 North American venues VI Bienal, Museu de Arte Moderna, Sao Paulo, Brazil International Exhibition, Tunisian Artists Association, Tunis 3rd International Exhibition of Prints, Tokyo, Japan Mixed Media and Pop Art, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo NY Arte de America y Espana, Instituto de Cultura Hispanica, Madrid, Spain Recent Acquisitions, Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY Fifteen Canadian Artists, MMFA ART, International Council, New York; touring the US Primera Bienal Americana de Grabado, Lima, Peru

1965 1966 1967 1968 1970 1971 1972 1975 1976 1978

Documenta III, INternationale Ausstellung, Museum Fredericianum, Kassel, West Germany Eros 65, Dorothy Cameron Gallery, Toronto ON 1e Biennale International de la Gracure, Cracow, Poland Three Hundred Years of Canadian Painting, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON Painting in Canada, Canadian Government Pavilion, Expo ‘67, Montreal QC Contemporary Canadian Prints and Drawings in Australia 1967 - 1968, Organized by National Gallery of Canada; touring Australia The Alexandra Luke Collection, Art Gallery of Oshawa, ON Canada 101, the Second Edinburgh Hundred, Edinburgh School of Art, Scotland Canadian Pavilion, Expo 70, Osaka, Japan Painters Eleven: 1953-1960, the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa ON Painters Eleven 1953 - 1959, Parts A and B, Toured by The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa to 5 venues Toronto Painting 1953 - 1965, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Art Gallery of Ottawa Painters Eleven, the Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery and Museum of Fine Art, Owen Sound; Sudbury Arts Festival Spectrum ‘75, Rothmans C Centre, Sudbury ON Painters Eleven, Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Kitchener ON Painters Eleven: 25 Years, the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa ON


C.V. (select, continued) 40

SELECT GROUP EXHIBITIONS, continued 1979 1984 1992 1994 1995 1997 1998 1999 2003 2007 2009 2011

Painters Eleven, Rodman Hall Arts Centre, St. Catherines ON Painters Eleven in Retrospect, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa ON Painters Eleven, Cambridge Library and Art Gallery, Cambridge ON Art Expo: Painters Eleven, Metro Convention Centre, Toronto ON Origins of Abstractions in Ontario: The Abstracts at Home Show, 1953, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa ON The Canadian Painters Eleven (1953-1960) from the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, touring 2 American venues Painters Eleven: Welcome Home, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa ON Canadian Collage, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, ON The Four Seasons, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, ON Painters Eleven: Commemorative Exhibition, Toronto, ON Painters Eleven - Selected Works, Theilsen Gallery, London ON Painters Eleven Exhibition, Thielsen Gallery, London ON Eleven in Motion: Abstract Expressions in Animation, Christopher Cutts Gallery,Toronto, ON Paint by Numbers: Painters Eleven, Museum London, London ON




1957 1957 1958 1958 1960 1966 1967 1968

Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, NB Art Gallery of Hamilton, Hamilton, ON Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON Tate Gallery, London, England Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, USA National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina, SK Museum of Modern Art, Sao Paulo, Brazil Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ON Winnipeg Art Gallery, Winnipeg, MB Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria, BC

Arno Prize, Sao Paulo Biennale Second International Exhibition of Drawings and Prints, Yugoslavia Canada Council Purchase Prize International Exhibition of Drawing and Prints, Lugano, Switzerland Guggenheim International Award, Honourable Mention, Canada Honorary Doctorate, York University Centennial Medal Officer, Order of Canada

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directors: Heidi Hubner & Colette Hubner design & text & contributors: Colette Hubner & Warren Dunford & the Town Estate

Cover image: Untitled Snap (#2222), ca. 1973, oil on linen, 12� x 12�

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