William Ronald

William Ronald, né Smith, painter and journalist (born 13 August 1926 in Stratford, ON; died 9 February 1998 in Toronto, ON).

Portrait of Trudeau
William Ronald, oil and spray on cotton (courtesy artist and Robert McLaughlin Gallery).

William Ronald, né Smith, painter and journalist (born 13 August 1926 in Stratford, ON; died 9 February 1998 in Toronto, ON). William Ronald's abstract expressionism influenced an era in Canadian art; he was the catalyst who organized Painters Eleven, the first abstract painting group in English Canada. Ronald’s gift lies in his work's spontaneity, dynamism and energy and in his natural talent for handling paint.

Education and Early Career

After studies at the Ontario College of Art (now the Ontario College of Art and Design University) with Jock Macdonald, Ronald went to New York in 1952 where he briefly attended Hans Hofmann's School of Fine Arts. Frustrated by the lack of representation of abstract painting, Ronald was pivotal in the founding of Painters Eleven in 1953.

In the mid-1950s, after travelling frequently between Toronto and New York, he moved to New York full-time. He was influenced by the fragmentary, explosive painting of Willem de Kooning, but by contrast also created large central images with a background horizon line, painted with savage, aggressive brush strokes. In 1957, he had his first exhibition in the Samuel Kootz Gallery, with which he remained until 1963.

Later Career and Journalism

In the mid-1960s, William Ronald returned to Canada. Because of a 1967 mural commission at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Ronald's style evolved into a more hard-edged format prophetic of the 1970s in Canadian art. Through the years he maintained his interest in automatic painting, using a vocabulary of symbols, often central images, that interested him. He also had a career as a broadcaster; he was host for the CBC radio program As it Happens (1969–72) and of a TV variety show about the arts, The Umbrella (1966–67). His work of the 1980s included a series of abstract paintings of Canada’s prime ministers.