Walter Hawley Yarwood
1917 - 1996
ARCA CGP OSA P11
A member of the pivotal Painters Eleven group, Walter Hawley Yarwood is known for both his paintings and sculptures. Born in Toronto in 1917, he attended the Western Technical School Art program as a teenager. Following high school he read voraciously and painted pictures, selling one or two a year while participating in exhibitions with the Ontario Society of Artists (OSA) and Canadian Group of Painters (CGP). Upon realizing that he would not be able to support his wife and five children as a painter, he took a job in advertising.
Yarwood was considered by his peers to be the toughest, most skilled outdoorsman of Painters Eleven. He was known to be animated in private but had a calm public persona; when asked how he was, his reply, with a wide grin, was always just “peachy.” Due to his reserved nature he did not generate the same hype as others in the group such as William Ronald, Harold Town and Jack Bush, who were the first among the members of Painters Eleven to receive international attention. Rather, he garnered respect among critics for his strong form and richness as a colourist.
A largely self-taught artist, Yarwood’s progression contains numerous examples of experimentation. In the late 1940s he was largely painting landscapes, and in the 1950s he evolved to Abstract Expressionism, often with strong blocky shapes rather than spontaneous, loose splashes. During the 1950s, he participated in eight Painters Eleven exhibitions. By the 1960s however, he had abandoned painting entirely for sculpture, explaining, “When I think about my paintings I feel that they were paintings with sculptural ideas.” In 1967 Yarwood was commissioned to produce a massive four-ton bronze that was installed outside the Ontario Legislature in Toronto - titled Pines, the work was inspired by his canoeing and fishing trips in Northern Ontario. This was followed by numerous private and public commissions, including a monumental, nine-meter tall piece at the Winnipeg International Airport, as well as a freestanding sculpture at the University of Toronto St. George’s campus.
After retiring from teaching art at Humber College, Yarwood came full circle, moving with his wife to Port Rowan on the shore of Lake Erie, and taking up landscape painting once again.