Paterson Ewen

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Paterson Ewen (1925–2002) was a Canadian painter. His later works are large-scale wall pieces distinguished by the use of both traditional and unconventional materials.

Life and work[edit]

William Paterson Ewen was born in 1925 in Montreal, Quebec. He attended McGill University from 1946-47 where he studied geology, and fine arts with John Goodwin Lyman. From 1948-50 he took classes at the School of Art and Design at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, studying under Goodridge Roberts, Arthur Lismer, William Armstrong, and Jacques de Tonnancour.

The influence of Goodridge Roberts can be seen in Ewen's works completed in the late 1940s. These early and often figurative works were followed by an exploration of abstraction which lasted through to the late sixites.

While in Montreal, Ewen was exposed to the work of the artists of the Automatiste movement (see Jean-Paul Riopelle and Paul-Émile Borduas), and became a member of the Non-Figurative Artists' Association of Montreal, founded in 1956. Ewen's abstracts completed in the mid-1950s are more gestural than those completed ten years later where he explores geometric forms, loosely related to hard-edge painting.

In 1968, Ewen moved to London, Ontario where he taught first at a local secondary school, then at the Visual Arts Department of the University of Western Ontario where he spent 14 years.

In 1971 Ewen's working method and imagery changed dramatically. He started working on plywood instead of canvas. The new pieces were physically large, often using several standard 4' x 8' sheets of plywood side by side. Ewen used a router to gouge out the surface, and attached objects to the surface with hardware. In the shallow three-dimensional surface he had created, Ewen then painted powerful images that grew out of his boyhood interests in geology and space.[1]

and my gesture, my physical gesture in doing the painting was just that. I kind of attacked it. At one point I was just going zip-zip-zip as the router went through the wood

— Patterson Ewen[1]

Ewen's career was often fragmented by overarching psychiatric problems and alcoholism. He suffered from severe manic depression and was plagued by poor mental health until his death in 2002. Despite these challenges, Ewen was able to produce an incredibly diverse and influential body of work.

Paterson Ewen is represented in major museums and public galleries throughout Canada. The Art Gallery of Ontario holds a significant body of his work.[2]

Selected exhibitions[edit]

  • 2000: Palazzo Grassi, Venice: Cosmos: From Goya to De Chirico, From Friedrich to Kiefer
  • 1996: Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto: Ewen: Earthly Weathers, Heavenly Skies (major retrospective)
  • 1982: Venice Biennale

Selected collections[edit]

  • National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
  • Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
  • Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal
  • Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
  • Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto
  • MIT List Visual Artistiiscis centres of the west

Selected publications[edit]

  • [exhibition catalogue]. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1987.
  • Paterson Ewen: Biennale di Venezia [exhibition catalogue]. 1982.
  • Teitelbaum, Matthew. Paterson Ewen: The Montreal Years. Saskatoon: Mendel Art Gallery, 1988.
  • Teitelbaum, Matthew (ed.). Paterson Ewen. Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1996.


  • Prix des Laurentides, 1957[3]
  • numerous Canada Council awards and fellowships[3]
  • Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, 1975[3][4]
  • Banff Centre School of Fine Arts National Award, 1987[3]
  • Toronto Arts Award for Visual Arts, 1988;[2][3]
  • Professor Emeritus, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, 1988[3]
  • DLitt, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, 1989[3]
  • honorary DLaws, Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, 1989[3]
  • Jean A Chalmers National Visual Arts Award, Ontario Arts Council 1995[3][5]


  1. ^ a b Shadbolt, Doris (September 1, 1977). "Paterson Ewen: Recent Works". Journal. The National Gallery of Canada (24).
  2. ^ a b "AGO Director Curates Major Exhibition of Works by Paterson Ewen". Art Gallery of Ontario. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "In Memoriam: Paterson Ewen". University of Western Ontario. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  4. ^ "Members since 1880". Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Archived from the original on May 26, 2011. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  5. ^ "The Chalmers Awards for Creativity and Excellence in the Arts Laureates". Ontario Arts Council. Retrieved 17 September 2013.

External links[edit]