Tom Hodgson, Canadian (1924 - 2006)

Raised on Toronto's Centre Island, Hodgson had a childhood filled with activity, taking part in both water sports on Lake Ontario and art classes that were organized by Group of Seven member Arthur Lismer at what was then known as the Art Gallery of Toronto, now the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Thomas Sherlock Hodgson was a painter and commercial artist who was born in Toronto, Canada, where he lived most of his life.  He died in Peterborough, Ontario, about 100 km from Toronto.  His mediums were oil, acrylic, watercolour, gouache, silkscreen, charcoal and mixed mediums.  His subjects were non-objective abstracts, landscapes, nudes, figures and portraits.  His styles were abstract expressionism, lyrical abstraction, realism and pop art.
 
Hodgson studied at the Art Gallery of Toronto under Arthur Lismer (1934 – 1936), at the Central Technical School, Toronto (1939 – 1943) under Charles Goldhamer and Bob Ross and at the Ontario College of Art, Toronto (1945 – 1946) under Rowley Walter Murphy.  He taught at the Ontario College of Art from 1968 to 1972 and began painting full time in 1976. He has also traveled in Europe and Australia.

In addition to studying art at Central Technical School and at the Ontario College of Art, Hodgson served two years in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Also a member of the Canadian Olympic canoe team, he competed in Helsinki in 1952 and in Melbourne in 1956 and remained a competitive canoe racer for much of his life.

In the 1950s, Hodgson and two of his Central Tech classmates, Kazuo Nakamura and Harold Town, were among a group of similarly minded Ontario artists who were growing increasingly frustrated with Toronto's stuffy cultural and artistic establishment.

In October 1953, Hodgson and Nakamura took part in an interesting exhibit spearheaded by one of their painter colleagues, William Ronald, who also did window displays for the former Simpsons department store in downtown Toronto.

e was also a member of the Ontario Society of Artists (1954), the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour (1954), the Canadian Group of Painters (1956), and an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy (1962).  It should also be noted that during the Second World War he served overseas with the Royal Canadian Air Force.  He was also an accomplished athlete who was on the Canadian Olympic paddling team in 1952 (Helsinki, Finland) and in 1956 (Melbourne, Australia).
 
His work has been exhibited in over 50 major solo and group exhibitions from the early 1950’s to 1995.  These include four Canadian Biennials at the National Gallery of Canada (1955, 57, 59 and 61); the Smithsonian U.S.A. Tour  (1956 – 1957); a two-man show with Graham Coughtry at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1960; the Canadian Biennial in London, England (1963) and the Painters Eleven Retrospective traveling exhibition (1978 – 1981).  He also exhibited with the Royal Canadian Academy from 1952 to 1966, and with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from 1954 to 1963.  In addition his work has been exhibited in many other locations such as Mexico City; New Delhi, India; New York City; Louisville Kentucky and at the Carnegie International, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
 
Hodgson's work is in many private, corporate and public collections.  Some of the public collections are the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa), the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Concordia University (Montreal), the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia and the Museum of Lachine (Quebec).
 
As a prominent Canadian artist his work has been discussed in many magazine and newspaper articles.  He is listed in A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald, published by Canadian Paperbacks Ltd. (8 volumes); and in The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar, published by Westbridge Publications Ltd. (4 volumes).  His work is also illustrated and discussed in Art Gallery of Ontario – The Canadian Collection(1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield, published by McGraw-Hill Co. of Canada Ltd. (603 pgs, B&W); in Four Decades (1972) by Paul Duval, published by Clark Irwin & Co. Ltd. (191 pgs, colour); in Contemporary Canadian Art (1983), by David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff, Hurtig Publishers (300 pgs, colour and B&W); in Visions – Contemporary Art in Canada (1983), various authors and editors, published by Douglas & McIntyre (239 pgs, colour); in Painting in Canada: A History (1966) by J. Russell Harper, published by University of Toronto Press (463 pgs, B&W); in A Concise History of Canadian Painting(1973), by Dennis Reid, published by Oxford University Press (319 pgs, colour and B&W); and in Canadian Art Today(1970), by William Townsend, published by the New York Graphic Society Ltd. (114 pgs, colour and B&W).

Ronald's Abstracts at Home exhibit showcased the work of Hodgson, Nakamura, Alexandra Luke, Jack Bush, Oscar Cahen and Ray Mead amid rooms of furniture displays at the Queen Street department store. His goal was to show Canadians that abstract art had a place inside the average home.

The participants of the exhibit felt a kinship and decided to meet again the following month, adding four more to their collective: Town, Hortense Gordon, Walter Yarwood and Jock Macdonald.

Town suggested the name Painters Eleven for the new collective and for the next few years, the group of avant-garde abstract painters met, exhibited together regularly around Toronto and throughout Ontario and helped usher in Toronto's acceptance of modernism.

Unlike their predecessors in the Group of Seven, the members of the Painters Eleven did not subscribe to a particular aesthetic in their art. Spanning in age from their mid-20s to nearly 70 years old, the members had no formal leader or structure and, for the most part, remained loosely affiliated. 

"Instead of having a grand manifesto … this was a group that got together to join forces so that they could get exhibitions, try to sell their work," Jansma said.  

"They decided to take the bull by the horns and put their own destinies together."

Despite battling against anti-modernist Toronto critics in subsequent years, the group eventually helped open Canadian eyes to modern art. However, after Cahen died in a car accident in 1956 and Ronald and Mead relocated to New York and Montreal, the Painters Eleven began to grow apart. In October 1960, the remaining members voted to disband.

After the group separated, Hodgson did some consulting work as a commercial advertising artist and taught at OCA from 1968 through 1973. He also self-published the book Creativity and Change in 1975.

Hodgson's work has been featured in more than 20 exhibitions, including at the AGO, Calgary's Glenbow Museum, the Galérie d'arts contemporains de Montréal, the National Gallery of Canada and the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

His work, and that of other Painters Eleven artists, is also featured at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery. It was founded by collective member Luke and her husband, who was an heir to the McLaughlin Carriage Company fortune. 

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