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Carl Schaefer (1903-1995)

Carl Schaefer (1903-1995)


“Pine Stump, Burdock” 23.8.47


15” x 11” Image

21” x 24.5” Frame

Signed Front Bottom Left

Excellent Condition with minor halo discolouration around the frame mat

Provenance: Private Hamilton Collection

  • Biography

    Born in Hanover, Ontario, son of John D. and Mamie Fellman Schaefer. Both sides of his parents’ families came from Germany. On his father’s side, his ancestors were close to the land, farming for several generations. His grandfather Schaefer was given Crown Grants in Bruce County, Upper Canada, in the 1840’s and 1850’s and cleared the land with the first Crown Grant and built a log house with the second. Carl’s father was born there and inherited the homestead, worked it, sold it, and with his wife Mamie, moved to the outskirts of Hanover where Carl was born. His mother died when he was five. He then went to live with his mother’s parents, the Fellmans. His grandfather Fellman was a skilled furniture finisher and one of the founders of the furniture factory in Hanover where the Fellman family had settled. ...When his father remarried, Carl stayed on with his Fellman grandparents but was also close to his father and stepmother. At school he enjoyed English, history and geography but not arithmetic. He did nothing special during his art classes to indicate what his final direction would be. He did drawings in his notebooks especially from his imagination. After two years in high school he decided to enter an art school for formal lessons in drawing. ...He chose the OCA because he had seen a Group of Seven exhibition in which two of the group members, J.E.H. MacDonald and Arthur Lismer, were instructors at the College. ...MacDonald stimulated his interest in literature and Lismer recommended art books and other literature to expand his horizons. He also became a lifelong friend of MacDonald’s son, Thoreau. Through MacDonald he also met A.Y. Jackson at the Studio Building and other members of the Group. ...In 1924 he left the OCA having received general art studies and intellectual stimulation from his teachers coupled with a self-teaching programme in drawing and painting. He gained, as well, the practical experience of helping in the decoration of St. Anne’s Church in Toronto where J.E.H. MacDonald was in charge of the mural work being done by 13 artists. ...Returning home to Hanover in 1924, he held his first solo show of 15 oil sketches in the Fireman’s Hall. The local paper gave him a warm review. He returned to Toronto where he did a wide variety of freelance work including: the decoration for the foyer of the Claridge Apartments from a design by J.E.H. MacDonald; assisted sculptor Emmanuel Hahn for his large bronze statues of Ned Hanlon and Sir Adam Beck and later posed for Hahn in making the design for his figures of Hanlon and Beck for the first silver dollar; he made architectural models; more stage sets and scenery for Toronto theatres; did church decorations throughout southern Ontario and commercial sign painting. He set up his own studio in 1925. He continued to do many different jobs, even laying gold leaf over decorations. He was regarded as an artist who could tackle any job. When doing jobs for Brigden’s printing company he first met Charles Comfort who had worked for Brigden’s in Winnipeg before moving to their offices in Toronto. Their association continued throughout their careers. He assisted Comfort with his mural for the North American Life Assurance Company, and Comfort painted Schaefer’s portrait on three separate occasions, Young Canadian (1932), Flight Lieut. Carl Schaefer R.C.A.F. (1948), Carl Schaefer at Bond Head (1973); also a portrait of him in bronze (1972) by Elizabeth Bradford Holbrook was acquired by the AGO. He continued with his personal art while doing his freelance jobs to put food on the table. He made his first painting trip to the French River in 1926 with a former student from the OCA, Lowrie Warrener. In 1927 he married Lillian Marie Evers and made his permanent residence in Toronto. He returned to Northern Ontario again with Warrener and George Pepper on an extensive sketching trip until October. His work in this period is strong in design and form and some of these sketches were developed into his prints and drawings (from 1923 to 1945); he made 45 prints including linocuts, wood engravings, dry point, lithographs and even a stencil. ... J. Russell Harper organized this show for SGWU, then it went on tour to the AEAG, AGH, LPL&AM (LRA & Hist. Mus.). Harper edited the catalogue in which the reproduction of the ink drawing Northern Night, Pickerel River (1932) was reproduced. ... In 1929 he had been hired as a display designer with the T. Eaton Company but when the Great Depression struck, Eaton’s had to let him go. Peter Haworth, head of the art department at the Central Technical School in Toronto had him taken on staff as part-time instructor. But his income was not enough to sustain a family of three, his son Mark having been born in 1929. He moved with his wife and son back to Hanover to live for the summer with his grandparents. But once in Hanover he began to look around at his native countryside with an artist’s eye. He realized he had found the subject matter that he wanted to explore for the rest of his life. From time to time he would paint further afield but most of his attention would be focused on the countryside of rural southern Ontario.... In 1934 he was appointed instructor for the Canadian Recreation Institute at Lake Couchiching, Ontario, and director of art at Hart House, U of T. and held both of these jobs until 1936. In 1935 he was also appointed director of art, Trinity College School, Port Hope until 1937(and later 1942/1946-48). By then he had become a member of the following societies: CSGA (1932); CSPWC (1933, Pres. 1938­41); CGP (1936). ...His half-brother, a pilot in the RCAF was killed in December 1941; the war had suddenly taken a life of someone close to him. He was invited by Harry McCurry to become a war artist, he accepted. At the age of forty, he joined the RCAF in February of 1943 and was commissioned with the rank of Pilot Officer (later F/L, July/44). He shipped overseas in March of that year on the S.S. Manchester Trader in a 92-ship convoy of which 22 ships were sunk by enemy action. ...After 16 days at sea Schaefer was assigned to RCAF H.Q. Air Staff in London as Official War Artist. During his service he covered operations in the European Theatre of War and Iceland. He was assigned to operations with nine different Squadrons ... It was hard to imagine that the painter of the rural pictures could have turned himself into a war artist, but he became one of the most competent His aeroplanes are full of the power of flight. ... He returned Toronto to continue his career as an artist and teacher. He was appointed instructor, summer session School of Fine Arts, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ont. (1946-50); part-time instructor, Central Technical School (1947-48); Instructor, OCA, 1948, where he became director of dept. of drawing & painting in 1956, until his retirement in 1968; he then became chairman emeritus of the OCA department of painting (1968-69). ...Schaefer continued painting, and in the 1980’s many of his paintings were collected for a show, Canadian Landscapes, that toured many European cities from 1983 to ’85. His honours include: Canada Centennial Medal (1967); Hon. Mbr., Senior Common Room, Trinity College, U of T(1974); Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, U of Waterloo (1976); fellow, OCA (1976); fellow, RSA, Lond. Eng. (1977); Order of Canada (1978). Carl Schaefer died in 1995 at the age of 92. .

    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 / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada

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