Artwork by Robert Markle,  Newman Ornamental

Robert Markle
Newman Ornamental

acrylic on paper
titled and dated 1966 on the reverse
22 x 29.5 ins ( 55.9 x 74.9 cms ) ( sheet )

Auction Estimate: $1,200.00$800.00 - $1,200.00

Price Realized $1,320.00
Sale date: January 31st 2023

From the estate of the Artist, Ontario

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Robert Markle
(1936 - 1990)

Robert Markle, painter, writer, musician, educator, was born 1936 in Hamilton, ON and died 1990 in Mount Forest, ON. Markle was Mohawk and later in life, Markle actively incorporated aspects of his Indigenous identity into his art. Most well known for his female nudes, Markle usually depicted his wife, Marlene, or burlesque dancers. Markle remains known for his sensual and passionate artwork. Robert Markle left Hamilton when he was 18 years old and began studying at the Ontario College of Art (OCA) (now the Ontario College of Art and Design) in Toronto in 1954. While still enrolled at OCA, Markle met Marlene Shuster, who was also studying there. They married in 1958. Marlene became the main model and muse for her husband’s expressionistic female nudes. In addition to Marlene, in his early work, Robert Markle painted burlesque dancers, as in his Burlesque Series (1962, tempera on paper.)

During his career, Markle primarily produced tempera and acrylic paintings and ink drawings, although he also explored media such as photography, collage, printmaking, wood sculpture and neon. He collected folk art, which influenced some of his “whirligig” works, such as Creation (1988, acrylic on wood.) In some of these and later works, Markle began to explore his Indigenous roots, using cultural themes and symbols in the art.

Robert Markle’s first one-man exhibition was held in 1963 at the Isaacs Gallery in Toronto. With this type of work, Markle was eventually associated with the so-called “Isaacs Group” of artists, who were known for both their avant-garde artwork and their drinking. Some of these artists, including Markle, were part of the Artists Jazz Band, which was formed around 1962. Markle taught at The New School of Art (founded in 1965) roughly from 1966 to 1976. Conceived as an alternative to the Ontario College of Art, the school did not keep attendance, demand pre-requisites or issue diplomas. In 1977, Markle was a founding member of Art’s Sake Inc., an artist-run post-secondary art school in Toronto, where he also taught. In addition, Markle taught, for a time, at the University of Guelph.

More than 10 years after Markle’s death in 1990, Tony Massett organized a Markle retrospective at the Durham Art Gallery (December 2002 to January 2003), and one year later, curator and art historian Anna Hudson organized an exhibition entitled Woman as Goddess: Liberated Nudes by Robert Markle and Joyce Wieland. The exhibition was on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario from November 2003 until February 2004.

Markle remains an important figure in Canadian art. J.A. Wainwright’s biography of Markle, Blazing Figures (2010) highlights the significance of Markle’s career (1960s–1990) to Canadian arts, as well as that of the Isaacs group and the Toronto art scene.

Literature Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia, Julia Skelly, 2017