Arts cen­tre re­vis­its Can­telon’s le­gacy


Nor­folk County was lucky to have Wil­liam Edgar Can­telon.

Can­telon (1866-1950) was not a great painter, merely a com­pe­tent one. Had he been a great painter, he may have moved on and sought a wider au­di­ence in a more pop­u­lous area.

As it hap­pened, Can­telon chose to eke out a living in Nor­folk. His le­gacy in­cludes a fine col­lec­tion of ar­ti­facts at the Eva Brook Donly Mu­seum in Sim­coe and more than 1,000 ir­re­place­able draw­ings and paint­ings chron­i­cling Old Nor­folk from Vic­to­rian times through the Sec­ond World War.

Can­telon is the sub­ject of an up­com­ing ex­hibit at the Nor­folk Arts Cen­tre in Sim­coe.

Five artists and a col­lec­tion of pho­tog­ra­phers were tasked with study­ing Can­telon’s le­gacy and shar­ing their re­sponses in paint and pic­tures. The re­sult is an ex­hibit called The Can­telon Trail.

Sim­coe artist Sally Gable ap­proached her end of the project by ex­am­in­ing Can­telon’s paint­ings of his­toric build­ings that are still stand­ing and still in use.

Gable went to some of these struc­tures and took pho­tos of the life in­side they still foster. The peo­ple and ac­tiv­i­ties she en­coun­tered are the focus of sev­eral paint­ings.

“(Can­telon) had a lot of fore­sight,” Gable said Thurs­day. “Early on he be­gan to col­lect ar­ti­facts in his trav­els and he be­came the first cu­ra­tor of the Eva Brook Donly Mu­seum. He was smart that way.”

can­telon scrounged money where he could. Lore has it he rode his bi­cy­cle into Nor­folk’s ru­ral ar­eas and made cold calls at area farms. He would offer to paint a pic­ture of a hand­some house or a prize steer in ex­change for money or some­thing he could use, like a good meal.

as part of his le­gacy, can­telon left be­hind a sig­nif­i­cant col­lec­tion of stiff but work­man­like por­traits of old Nor­folk’s no­table cit­i­zens. in re­sponse, Sim­coe artist Jim Jack­son has pro­duced a se­lec­tion of por­traits of rel­a­tives and labour­ers in coun­ter­point to can­telon’s treat­ment of Nor­folk’s up­per crust.

Sev­eral artists tak­ing part in the ex­hibit are from out­side the area. This is their first ex­po­sure to can­telon and they too have com­mit­ted their im­pres­sions to can­vas.

“We vis­ited many places where can­telon set up his easel and painted,” Gary blun­del and vic­to­ria Ward said in a joint state­ment.

“most of these were bu­colic wa­ter­ways that had once been the lo­ca­tion of a mill many gen­er­a­tions ago. We looked around and saw what had be­come of can­telon’s `places’ in the 21st cen­tury. He seems to have been driven to doc­u­ment the area and sell paint­ings.”

The Nor­folk His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety was founded in 1900. can­telon was one of its early sup­port­ers. His large and im­por­tant col­lec­tion of ar­ti­facts found a home in 1941 when lo­cal artist eva brook donly be­queathed her prop­erty on Nor­folk Street South to the for­mer Town of Sim­coe.

The eva brook donly mu­seum houses more than 400 of can­telon’s paint­ings. The Nor­folk arts cen­tre has sev­eral can­telons in its per­ma­nent col­lec­tion. The can­telon Trail is the third col­lab­o­ra­tion in re­cent years be­tween the mu­seum and the arts cen­tre.

“it should be a con­ver­sa­tion starter,” deirdre chisholm, direc­tor and cu­ra­tor of the arts cen­tre, said Wed­nes­day.

The pub­lic is in­vited to at­tend to the ex­hibit’s of­fi­cial open­ing 7 p.m. Nov. 17. Guest cu­ra­tor He­len bartens will speak about can­telon’s life and times.


Sim­coe artist Sally Gable is one of five artists con­tribut­ing work to an up­com­ing ex­hibit at the Nor­folk Arts Cen­tre based on the life of Nor­folk his­to­rian and painter Wil­liam Edgar Can­telon (1866-1950). The paint­ing on the easel is a Can­telon land­scape. The Can­telon Trail opens Nov. 17.

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