Artwork by Owen Staples,  Rotunda, University College, Toronto

Owen Staples
Rotunda, University College, Toronto

signed and titled in the lower margin
7.75 x 9.75 ins ( 19.7 x 24.8 cms ) ( plate size )

Auction Estimate: $150.00$100.00 - $150.00

Price Realized $89.00
Sale date: July 16th 2019

Private Collection, Toronto

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Owen Staples
(1866 - 1949)

Owen Staples, also known as Owen Poe Staples (September 3, 1866 - December 6, 1949), was a Canadian painter, etcher, pastelist, political cartoonist, author, musician and naturalist.

Staples' family arrived in Hamilton, ON from England in 1872. Abandoned by their father, the family moved to Rochester, NY in 1876. After Staples' mother died in 1881, he was hired as a messenger boy at the Rochester Art Club where he was given the nickname Poe. There he began his art training with Horatio Walker and Harvey Ellis. In 1885, after nine years in the United States, Staples moved to Toronto, ON to study under George Agnew Reid. That same year, he was hired by John Ross Robertson, founder of the Toronto Telegram. Granted a leave of absence by Robertson, Staples moved to Philadelphia in 1886 for two years of study under Thomas Eakins and Thomas Pollock Anshutz at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

From 1888 to 1908, Staples worked for the Telegram as a staff artist, reporter and political cartoonist, and illustrator for the J. Ross Robertson Collection. The Battle of York is an example from this collection. Thereafter, Staples became a well known artist, illustrating a number of books, executing commissioned murals, and producing a vast oeuvre of paintings, watercolours and etchings. Robertson also commissioned Staples to paint several large canvases of historical subjects. Seven of these works now hang in Toronto`s New City Hall. He continued to write and illustrate a vast number of articles for the Telegram on subjects of his own choosing.

In 1905, Tom Thomson came under the influence of his cousin Dr. William Brodie. Brodie was the director of Biology at the Ontario Provincial Museum, the precursor of the Royal Ontario Museum. Brodie and Staples frequently explored the Don River valley together and young Thomson often accompanied them. Thomson scholar Joan Murray wrote: "Thomson also learned from Brodie how to collect specimens; as a young man, he accompanied his relative on collecting trips." Staples, who was rarely without his paintbox easel, illustrated treatises for Brodie who consulted on natural history articles written for the Telegram by Staples. The artistic but inexperienced Thomson was intrigued by Staples, a master watercolourist, who made every effort to 'catch the light' with his quickly rendered pictures.

A. J. Casson wrote: "Owen Staples was the first professional artist I met in Toronto in 1916. I was a lad of 18 and he kindly helped to provide me with an entrée to the local art scene. I joined the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto in 1920, when Vincent Massey was president. Owen Staples was a staunch supporter of the club and very active." "Many good times were spent at 69 Hogarth Avenue, in Toronto's east end, a favorite meeting place for artists, musicians, writers, etc." The "Studio", completed in 1904, was designed by Staples and artist C.W. Jefferys in an Arts and Crafts style.

For many years Staples held an open house on Sundays which attracted a lively cross-section of Toronto society. Regular visitors included the artists who would become the Group of Seven and other members of the Arts and Letters Club. Visitors included opera star Bertha May Crawford, architect Eden Smith, banker and art patron Sir Byron Edmund Walker who purchased many of Staples' works, the celebrated cellist Leo Smith and a host of other artists, poets, writers, educators, ministers, musicians, politicians and bankers. Perhaps the most enigmatic visitor was William Leonard Hunt, also known as The Great Farini, who pitched a tent in the backyard and stayed for the summer. In later years, Staples' son William and his close friend Charles Comfort attracted a younger generation of Toronto's arts community. The weekly open house gradually petered out after the untimely death of William in 1929.