Newspaper clippings from a variety of newspapers relating to the art career of Ralph Conner as well as copies of exhibition catalogues.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

London Library Exhibit Tribute to Late Artist

By Lenore Crawford

                The 40 paintings on view in the Williams’ Memorial Art Museum by Ralph Conner are the finest sort of tribute which could have been paid by the art gallery and the Western Art League to a man whose influence spread far beyond his own community of Kitchener.  For they tell graphically of the artist and within themselves hold the reasons for Conner’s influence.
                Born in Birkenhead, England, in 1895, he began painting in water color early in life and worked with Barker.  When he came to Canada in 1913 he was overwhelmed by the difference in coloring, felt the sort of water color work he did in England was unsuited to Canadian landscape.
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                So, he turned to oil finding satisfaction in their richer  coloring.  Then he became advocate of the palette knife using it skilfully to produce paintings of individuality, with high-key effects of great interest.
                It was only a few years before his death in 1951 that Conner returned to water color work and he used to broad, robust washes similar to the technique of contemporary English painters.  In the intervening years his pictures had been hung by the Ontario Society of Artists and the Royal Canadian Academy, the Montreal Museum and the Williams Memorial.  His paintings had been shown from Montreal to Vancouver.
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                In 1931 he organized the Art Society of Kitchener and Waterloo and was president for many years.  His business life was linked with art design for he was president of the De Luxe Upholstering Company Limited.  In both places he was known for his genial disposition and wit.
                The paintings, loaned by Mrs. Conner, provide a review of the artist’s work from 1931 when he did an old-fashioned type of oil, comparatively dark in color, with a wheat field as subject, to a sparkling still life done 20 years later.  The latter is one of the finest works in the exhibit, with its graceful composition skilfully arranged in dark and light tones, the dark ones possessed of a lovely softness.
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                This softness is found again in a picture of an old distillery in water color and mauve shadows cast by over hanging trees are soothing in the otherwise brightly lighted painting of an old car on a road, done with a palette knife.
                Pattern interested Conner greatly.  He liked to portray boat works or a group of bottles and plates, making order in chaos. 
                Sometimes the pattern remained too cluttered; obviously the artist hated to leave out subjects.  He showed this tendency in some paintings of houses also.   But his best works have fine strength in pattern with details carefully chosen.
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Perhaps the best example of this is “White Church at Doon” in oils.  Its prisms are cleverly manipulated, the coloring striking and telling, the mood firmly established.
“Solitude,” an excursion into portraying emotional or spiritual experience through some concrete objects, succeeds admirably.  The man’s humor is evidenced in “Television, Preston Highway.”  Finally, his self-portrait shows Conner saw himself as a serious man, but it is not nearly so telling as his other works.

The London Evening Free Press, May 17, 1952

WO Art Exhibit To Open Friday

LONDON – Andre Bieler, director of fine arts department at Queen’s University, will be the guest speaker at the opening of the annual Western Ontario Exhibition Friday at 8:30 in the Williams Memorial Art Museum.
                This will be Mr. Bieler’s first visit to the art museum and he will also be on the jury to select prize winners among exhibitors in the show.  Selections will be made Friday night and winners will be announced during the official opening.
                The 96 paintings to be hung are from 300 works submitted.  They represent a cross-section of the current work being done by professional and amateur artists in the south Western Ontario region.  Also on view will be two pieces of sculpture.
                In connection with the show will be a Memorial Exhibition to honour Ralph Conner, who exerted a strong influence on art trends in his own community of Kitchener and was an enthusiastic and valued exhibitor in the Western Ontario exhibitions for many years.  He presented the first award ever given to exhibitors.  The collection of 40 paintings will give a survey of his work over the years.

The Wallaceburg News, May 15, 1952

Manufacturer, Artist Dies

                Ralph Conner, 55, president of the De Luxe Upholstering Co., Ltd., Waterloo, and prominent Western Ontario artist, died last night in St. Michaels Hospital, Toronto, following a brief illness.  He resided at 835 Queen’s Blvd., Kitchener.
                Mr. Conner was stricken with a heart attack last week en route to Toronto.  He had been in hospital since.
Highly-Rated Artist
                One of Homer Watson’s first pupils, Mr. Conner painted for 20 years.  He was considered one of the best artists in Western Ontario.  His works have been shown in all the major art exhibitions across Canada.  At present his paintings are being shown in the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
                Mr. Conner was a past president of the Kitchener-Waterloo Society of Artists.  His father was also a prominent artist.
                Born in England, he came to Canada as a child with his parents and settled in Kitchener.  He was employed by the old DeLuxe Furniture Co., on Gaukel St.  When the firm folded he went into partnership and took over the business, assuming the presidency.  The business was moved to King St Sout, Waterloo.
Belonged to Masons
                He was a member of the Masonic lodge.
                Surviving are his wife, the former Muriel Swartz; a son, Gerald A., Waterloo; a daughter, Mrs. George (Mary) Hale, Toronto; two sisters, Mrs. William Van Rooy, St. John’s, Nfld., and Mrs. A. W. Miller, Milwaukee, Wis., and five grandchildren.
                The body is at the Ratz-Bechtel Funeral Home, pending funeral arrangements.

Kitchener-Waterloo Record, May 11, 1951

Conner Director of Art League

Ralph Conner, Kitchener artist whose paintings are well known throughout Ontario, was elected a director of the Western Art League at London, Ont., last night.
                Otway F. Hayden was re-elected president for the third successive year.
                In his annual report Mr. Hayden mentioned a record membership of 553.
                His report also pointed to the value of membership in the form of four demonstrations, invitations to all previews and an opportunity to participate in the annual Western Ontario Art Exhibition.
                The league decided that the names of jury members to choose exhibits for the annual exhibition will in future be made public.
                In previous years it was the practice to publish the  name of one professional member, the two non-professionals remaining secret.

Kitchener Record, June 10, 1949

2 Local Artists' Pictures Shown

Two local artists are featured in exhibition of Western Ontario painters on display at the Kitchener Public Library.  The exhibition comprises 20 large oil paintings, including a number of portraits.
The artists whose works are displayed, are Ralph Conner and John Schlachter, president of the K-W Art Society.
Mr. Conner’s contribution to the exhibition is a work entitled “The Village Pump,” and Mr. Schlachter’s “Spring Break Up on the Grand River.”
An interesting feature is a brief biographical history of the artists attached to the paintings.
A portrait by the noted Canadian artist Clair Bice is included in the group.
Kitchener-Waterloo Daily Record, November 5, 1947