Sir Frederick Grant Banting

Sir Frederick Grant Banting

1891 - 1941

Frederick Banting was born in 1891 in Alliston, Ontario. Known to many as the co-discoverer of insulin, Banting won the Nobel prize for Medicine in 1923, together with J.J.R. Macleod. Banting shared the prize money with his colleague Dr. Charles Best. For this remarkable contribution to medicine, he was knighted in 1934. Banting Historical House in London, Ontario is named in his honour.

Banting’s artistic career, although lesser known, is equally notable, and he produced paintings, drawings in pencil, charcoal and ink as well as serigraphs. He was painting as early as 1920, and exhibited his first oil sketches at the Hart House Sketch Club in 1925. He had served in the Canadian Medical Corps in World War I, when he was wounded, and convalesced in England. Upon his return to Canada he sought out Group of Seven artist A.Y. Jackson, also a war veteran, as he was interested in acquiring his work. With their common background of similar war experiences and their shared enthusiasm for art and the Canadian landscape, they soon formed a strong friendship. Banting also met Lawren Harris around this time, and Harris nominated him for membership in Toronto's Arts and Letters Club in 1926. Banting was a passionate Canadian and shared the views of the artists of the Group. Jackson and Banting took numerous painting trips together in many regions of Canada. Their journey to the Canadian Arctic and Greenland aboard the Canadian Government supply ship the Beothic in 1927 produced many works, as would their sojourn in the Great Slave Lake area in 1928. Banting found respite from his life as a well known doctor while sketching, and this was another common bond with the equally famous Jackson. They sometimes used alias names while they painted along the south and north shores of the St. Lawrence and in Rimouski County. Jackson introduced Banting to one of his beloved villages, Saint-Tite-des-Caps, where they painted houses and barns in classic Group style. They sketched in Ontario at Georgian Bay and Cobalt, in northern Alberta near Yellowknife and Fort Resolution and further south in Jasper National Park. Banting would sketch on his own as well, and returned to Europe in 1933 to attend the International Cancer Congress in Madrid, and painted while he was there.

Vowing to retire from medical research at age 50 and paint full time, Banting was 49 when he was tragically killed in an air crash while serving with the Canadian National Defence Associate Committee on Aviation Medical Research in 1941. His work was exhibited in a retrospective at Hart House, University of Toronto in 1943, at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Queen’s University, and the Art Gallery of Alberta. He is represented in both public and private collections in Canada.

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