Edwin Holgate by Lilias Torrance Newton
Edwin Holgate was born in Allandale in Ontario in 1892. He studied at the Art Association of Montreal with William Brymner and Maurice Cullen before travelling to Paris in 1912 to study at La Grande Chaumière until 1914. Then, he served in the army in Canada, England and France in 1916-19.
In 1920 he went back to Paris where further training with Russian artist Adolf Milman impressed upon him the importance of fine draughtsmanship and strong colouring. Holgate also admired French artist Paul Cézanne, whose emphasis on solid structure inspired his compositions. In the early 1920s, Holgate was a member of the Beaver Hall Hill Group, and along with such artists as Prudence Heward and Lilias Torrance Newton.
He travelled to Jamaica in 1920 and 1929, to France in 1920-22 and to Skeena River, in British Colombia in 1926 and with A.Y. Jackson and Marius Barbeau to Natashquan in Quebec in 1930.
He taught at the École des beaux-arts of Montreal from 1928 to 1934, at the Art Association of Montreal in 1934-35 and 1938-40.
When Holgate exhibited his nudes in the 1930 Group of Seven exhibition, the art critic for The Toronto daily Star acclaimed: “Holgate sets a new fashion in nudes – away from French decadence to the Laurentians for a background; splendidly painted nudes without cosmetics”. Indeed, Holgate showed innovation in presenting a nude in a wilderness setting, free of the subtleties of drapery and the pretences of mythology often associated with traditional depictions of the subject. He died in Montreal in 1977.
Holgate explored a modernist approach to portraits and landscapes, employing the same directness that he had applied to the unclothed figure.
Edwin Holgate was a painter, printmaker, draughtsman, illustrator and muralist. His works include a decoration of Jasper Room in Château Laurier in Ottawa from 1928 to 1929, a mural for the Canadian Pavilion in The New York World’s Fair in 1939.
Source : Anne Newlands, Canadian art from its beginnings to 2000, Firefly, 2000 ; Catalogue of the National Gallery of Canada, Canadian art, volume two/G-K, Ottawa, 1994