William Winter

Born in Winnipeg, August 27, 1909
 / Died in England, March 13, 1996

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About the Artist

WINTER, William Arthur

Lived  in Toronto, 1937-94.
Lived In England, 1994-96.

Living in Toronto from the 1940s onwards, W.A. Winter became known in the 1950s for his lively city scenes, many depicting children in a modern realist style. His subjects also include portraits, figures and the prairie landscape. He painted in oil, acrylic, and watercolour, and drew with pencil and coloured chalk.

William Winter was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1909. He studied art under Frank H. Johnston and Lionel LeMoine Fitzgerald at the Winnipeg School of Art from 1923-1929, and then from 1930-1935 he worked as a commercial artist at Brigden’s, Winnipeg, while continuing to study art. He moved to Toronto in 1937, and established an advertising firm with Lesley Wookey and Jack Bush in 1942; Wookey, Winter, Bush. Winter’s commercial work included painting cover illustrations for New World Illustrated.

Reviewer Constance MacKay in the Vancouver News-Herald (January 3, 1948) praised Winter’s painting, Rosie, on exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery, for its rich, jewel like colours and called it “a timeless psychological study” of youth.

In 1955, Winter left his career in commercial art to work as an independent artist. He deposited his RCA diploma painting, Street Scene, depicting a lively group of children playing on a side walk, at National Gallery of Canada in 1955. Later, Winter commented to a reviewer in the Brantford Expositor (October 19, 1960) on the meaning of another painting The Multitude, 1959, which included over a thousand figures, “I was thinking about the ‘population explosion’ and the ‘bomb.'” The painting had attracted a lot of attention due to its recent purchase by the National Gallery of Canada.

By 1960 Winter had completed a number of mural commissions: Canadian Pacific Rail lounge car; the Robert S. McLaughlin Public Library, Oshawa; Standard Iron and Steel Company; Children’s Aid Society, Toronto, and Seagrams Ltd. The Globe and Mail reporter Blaik Kirby noted Winter’s thoughts on his subject matter and general approach (November 28, 1967), “I paint with a great deal of nostalgia. I paint my own boyhood.”  Winter’s paintings were appreciated for their sensitive depiction of the attitudes and habits of children and youth in lively, colourful paintings.

In the 1960s, Winter taught drawing and painting at the Ontario College of Art and the Artist’s Workshop, both in Toronto. He also travelled and painted in Italy (1963) and Spain (1965), Greece, (1966) and Mexico.

Paul Duval noted that Winter’s best work was produced from the 1940s to the early 50s, and included “penetrating studies of Toronto’s inner city.” Duval added that they captured the colour and conflict of downtown life, citing Winter’s painting, Midnight at Charlie’s, 1945, a social realist work depicting a man alone in a diner, which was exhibited with a Canadian Group of Painters exhibition in 1945. This work, now in the Vancouver Art Gallery’s (VAG) collection, was also included in the VAG’s 1982 exhibition, Canadian Pictures 1951, an historical recreation of their 1951 exhibit.

Winter died in England, in 1996.


Judith Parker
Compiled May 2008

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

Studied at

Winnipeg School of Art under L.L. Fitzgerald
Established Advertising Firm of  Wookie, Winter, Bush in Toronto


1943, J.W.L. Forster Award, Ontario Society of Artists

Member of

1934, Member, Manitoba Society of Artists
1938, Member, Ontario Society of Artists
1945, Member, Treasurer, Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour; 1946-1948, President
1945, Member, Canadian Group of Painters
1953, Member, Royal Academy of Arts

Solo Exhibitions

1948-1950, 1952-1954, Eaton's College St. Gallery, Toronto, ON
1959 - 2001, Roberts Gallery, Toronto, ON
1970, 1974, Wells Gallery, Ottawa, ON
1972, Upstairs Gallery, Winnipeg, MB
1972, Galerie Gauvreau, Montreal, QC
1977, Kensington Fine Arts Gallery, Calgary, AB
1978, Downstairs Gallery, Edmonton, AB
1978, 1981, 1986, 1988, Galerie Walter Klinkhoff, Montreal, QC

Group Exhibitions

1945, Canadian Group of Painters
1945-1963, Royal Canadian Academy of Arts
1983, Canadian Pictures 1951, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC


National Gallery of Canada
Art Gallery of Ontario
Vancouver Art Gallery
Art Gallery of Hamilton
London Regional Art Gallery
Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa
National Gallery of Auckland, New Zealand
Brock University, St. Catharines
Corporation of the City of North Bay
TransCanada PipeLines, Toronto
Hiram Walker Resources, Toronto
Du Pont Canada Inc., Toronto
Dofasco Inc., Hamilton
Canada Packers Inc., Toronto
McLean McCarthy Ltd. , Toronto
Glaxo Canada, Mississauga
Cinque Investments, Toronto
LaBell Toy Soldiers Inc., Toronto
John Lordan Footwear Ltd., Toronto
Sam Wise Enterprises, Montreal
Levitt, Shekter & Schnurr, Toronto
GBB Associates, Toronto
Bell Gouinlock Limited, Toronto