The Passing of Canadian Artist Ed Bartram, OSA

Ed Bartram, great Canadian artist and member of the Ontario Society of Artists since 1971, died on August 25th 2019. Ed has left an extraorinary legacy. It is with heavy hearts that we say farewell and thank you. Here we have included both the retrospective article written by Isabel Teotonio and the obituary published by the Toronto Star honouring his memory. We are proud to have had Ed as a member of our society for so many years. We wish his family and friends our sincere condolences.

(Included here are a portrait of Ed Bartram taken by Vince Talotta and a photograph of his painting “Topaz Lake #2”, Killarney” 2003)

BARTRAM, EDWARD JOHN Ed (Ted) Bartram, 81, died Sunday, August 25, 2019, at Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital, after treatment at West Parry Sound Health Centre and Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre, following a brief illness. He leaves Mary Bromley, his wife of 39 years and daughter Jessica Bromley Bartram (Ian Alexander). He was brother to Bill Bartram (Janet Bartram-Thomas); brother-in-law to Carol Bromley and Bill Bromley; uncle to David Bartram (Cheryl McGowan), Mary Bartram (Chris Forbes), Erica Stone (Ed Vandenberg) and Stephanie Stone (Lyndon Bailey). Born in London, Ontario, to Dr. Edward Bartram and Olive Bartram, Ed spent his last year of high school at Neuchâtel Junior College in Switzerland, where he made lifelong friends and developed an interest in art history. Upon returning to Canada he completed a BA at Western University and an MA in Art & Archaeology at the University of Toronto. On graduation, he taught art at Lawrence Park Collegiate, then the art diploma course at Central Technical School. This was followed by 18 years of teaching printmaking at the Ontario College of Art & Design. He developed his professional art practice in the mid 1960s and continued working until his death. In 1965, after buying an island on Georgian Bay, he reconnected with the rocks of the Canadian Shield and made them his subject matter for the rest of his career. His enduring love for Georgian Bay was earlier influenced by his time at Camp Hurontario and by its late director Bernie Hodgetts, who instilled in his campers a deep respect for the natural world. Represented by Mira Godard Gallery since 1977, Ed’s etchings and paintings of the unique rocks of Georgian Bay are collected across Canada and abroad. He spent his summers working in his studio on the island and delighted in taking visitors on tours of the shoreline, enthusiastically explaining the geologic history of the rocks along the way. In 2007, Ed and the island on which he worked were a part of the CBC series Geologic Journey, which highlighted the features of the rocks that had long been inspiring Ed’s art. He was an incredibly generous person with his time and his kindness towards others. He was always prepared with words of advice (especially for his daughter) on a wide range of topics, from financial planning to repairing solar water pumps. He had a boundless energy for French cooking, birding, fishing and fixing things with duct tape and hope. His ever-expanding island garden is a wonder and he had a particular love for daylilies, crossing them to create new varieties artistically (not scientifically!). There will be a celebration of his life in Toronto in early November, date to be announced. Please do not send flowers. Instead, the family suggests that you plant a tree in Ed’s honour. Memorial donations can also be made to the Georgian Bay environmental organization of your choice.

Ed Bartram, a Canadian artist who was renowned for capturing Georgian Bay’s dramatic and rugged landscape with images of rock formations, has died. He was 81.

For more than 50 years, Bartram documented the beauty of Georgian Bay in his paintings, prints and photographs. He was especially famous for his vivid rockscapes, showcasing patterns, textures and lichen.

Topaz Lake, Ed Bartram

His etchings and paintings can be found in public, corporate and private collections in North America, Europe and Asia.

Sarah Milroy, chief curator of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ont., associates Bartram’s work most closely with the landscape of Georgian Bay, located about 150 km. north of Toronto.

“His work captures the sense one has of the density of that ancient rock, the sense of geological time compressed in these primordial layers,” she said. “Given that what he is rendering is rock, it is striking that he can make the subject seem so alive.”

In his book Rockscapes of Georgian Bay, published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside, Bartram explained his creative process.

“Rather than using the traditional landscape composition of the Group of Seven, I often take a more intimate viewpoint, where the rock surface, itself, becomes the subject of the work of art,” he wrote. “Within the structure of the rock, I find patterns which become abstract landscapes themselves and capture the essence of the windswept north.’ ”

Those patterns helped to fuel his art.

Gisella Giacalone, owner and director of Toronto’s Mira Godard Gallery, which represented Bartram for more than 40 years, said those familiar with Georgian Bay will look at his paintings “and know exactly what he’s painted, even when it comes to the abstract paintings.

“He’s captured that kind of beautiful, rugged, pristine Georgian Bay area. It’s a spot in Canada that was near and dear to him.”

Whalesback, Georgian Bay, 2013, Ed Bartram

Born in 1938, in London, Ont., Bartram’s father was a cardiologist and his mother was a former dessert chef and amateur artist. From an early age, she encouraged Bartram, and his brother, to express themselves through art, buying old roller blinds to cut up and use as canvas.

He fell in love with Georgian Bay, home to 30,000 islands, when he attended Camp Hurontario, a boys’ summer camp. His affection deepened when he worked there as a camp counsellor, teaching art and leading canoe trips.

During one of those trips, he spotted a deserted island with the ruins of an old cabin. He often took the campers to that island for cookouts and to sit on the rocks, with paintbrush in hand, looking for inspiration in their surroundings.

After high school, he briefly pursued medicine, but eventually graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a Bachelor of Arts. He then attended the University of Toronto, obtaining a master’s degree in art and archaeology. Making art was his passion, but he struggled as a young artist, so he turned to teaching as a way to supplement his income.

In 1965, his first year as an arts high school teacher, he borrowed money to buy the deserted four-hectare island in Georgian Bay that he was so enamoured with, paying about $7,500 for it.

That island, along with the cottage and art studio he built on it, became a summer retreat; when he wasn’t there, he was at his home in King Township.

On the island, Bartram spent countless hours on his art and relished explaining to friends and visitors the geological history of the rocks.

“These rocks are Precambrian. They are older than life itself …. They are the oldest rocks in the world,” he told Star reporter Janice Mawhinney in 2002, when she visited him on the island for a feature story. “I try to give a feeling of the Canadian North, a feeling of going back in time to the formation of the crust of the earth, itself, and the primordial forces and powers of that creation.”

Around 1970, his series of works inspired by Georgian Bay rocks helped establish his reputation as an artist.

“The uniqueness of his work was his subject,” said professional artist Jean-Claude Bergeron, who now runs Galerie d’art Jean-Claude Bergeron in Ottawa.

“It’s very Canadian.”