Work & Bio

W.R. Duff

Born in 1879
 / Died in 1967

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Born in Hamilton, Ontario, he studied at the Hamilton Art School; Art Students’ League of New York (1899-1902); Polytechnic Inst., London and was employed as a commercial artist for the Toronto Engraving Co. (1904); Manager of Commercial Art Co., Tor. (1905-07); Advertising Designers Ltd., Tor. (1911-15). In his own work he was a printmaker, water colourist, painter and ceramist. During those early years he did many oils and water colours of Georgian Bay and Algonquin Park. He became a founding mem­ber of the Graphic Arts Club in 1904. He worked in etching, drypoint, soft-ground etching (often in brown ink). At the outbreak of World War I, he joined the Canadian Medical Corp as a private soldier. He was stationed at Orpington Hospital where his knowledge of anatomy and handling of sculp­tural materials was of great help to the plastic surgeons doing repair work for the wounded soldiers, especially facial injuries. He was soon promoted to Lieutenant and then Captain. His work was later sent to the archives of the Royal College of Surgeons and Physicians, England. On his return to Canada he lived in Montreal (c. 1920-25) then moved to Douglaston, N.Y. in 1930. He was back in Toronto in 1963 and died there at the age of 88. His other affiliations include: SGA (1913); Salmagundi Club, N.Y. (1916); Chelsea Arts Club, London (1917); CPE (1916). He is represented in the NGC by six works all etchings (3 portraits, 3 landscapes). His soft-ground etched portrait of his friend Tony Guarino (1916), NGC, excels as a charac­ter study – the intense look of the young man is portrayed with masterful lines that define light and shadow. The artist seems to have peered into the very soul of his friend.

Colin S. MacDonald

A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, volumes 1-8 by Colin S. MacDonald, and volume 9 (online only), by Anne Newlands and Judith Parker
National Gallery of Canada / Musée des beaux-arts du Canada