Ralph Conner (1895-1951)
Few professional artists and teachers of art have made such a profound impression on the artistic life of their community as did the late Ralph Conner. And yet he called himself a Sunday painter. He was always a student and never gave a formal lesson. His paintings have been shown by the Ontario Society of Artists, the Royal Canadian Academy and in leading galleries across Canada. Local collectors are proud to include one or more of his works. Most local painters will testify to the value of his inspiration, encouragement and informal teaching and criticism.
Ralph Conner was born in Birkenhead, England in 1895. His father was a painter of some ability. Before coming to Canada in 1913 Conner had studied painting in watercolour. In Canada, painting was for him an intensely absorbing hobby. He was a successful furniture manufacturer, for some years up until his death in 1951, president of De Luxe Upholstering Company Limited.
In 1931, Conner was the prime organizer in the founding of the Art Society out of which grew the present Kitchener-Waterloo Society of Artists. During the next twenty years he was out sketching almost every week-end and holiday. In between he did masses of studio work of which only a small portion remains. Many of his efforts, failing to please him, were consigned by him to the fire.
Rarely did Conner go out alone on his sketching trips. His car was always filled with other sketching enthusiasts who were attracted to him and benefited from his assistance and friendly, witty and always frank criticism.
As an examination of his works will show, Conner was always an experimenter. He tried new approaches and new methods inspired by a study of the works of others. But by nature, he was not an imitator. The results always showed his own individuality.
In association with the late Ross Hamilton and others, Conner did much to promote the fine annual exhibitions of local work by the Kitchener-Waterloo Society of Artists which started some years ago. He also encouraged others to submit works to major exhibition elsewhere.
The Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery is very proud to present in its opening season this fine memorial exhibition.