John Gould

John Gould, "Primavera", 1975, conté on board, 82.5 x 150 cm (33 x 60 in). Collection of the MacLaren Art Centre. Gift of Dr. Nathan J. and Barbara Morrow, 2014

John Gould
Primavera, 1975
Conté on board, 82.5 x 150 cm (33 x 60 in)
Collection of the MacLaren Art Centre. Gift of Dr. Nathan J. and Barbara Morrow, 2014

John Gould is one of Simcoe County’s best-known and highly celebrated artists. Working in various media including drawing, painting, film and music, Gould’s artistic output is characterized by spontaneity and improvisation. Much of his work shows a strong influence of theatre, with attempts to capture the qualities and expressions that actors convey to their audiences through performances.

Primavera, part of Gould’s Ancestor Series, is a large-scale conté drawing on board. The drawing is an excellent example of Gould’s expertise as a draughtsman and his ability to capture theatrical facial expressions as well as his dynamic explorations of figuration—both human and animal—as well as plant life and landscapes. The work was executed in Waubaushene in 1970, where Gould undertook what some consider the most complex and ambitious drawings of his career. As critic David Balzer writes in the essay for the 2013 John Gould retrospective at Roberts Gallery, “The Ancestor Series—large-scale, densely crosshatched drawings made up of autobiographical elements, dream imagery and references from film history and literature were to be some of the most expressive and technically masterful work he was to produce.” We currently hold two pastel drawings by Gould in our collection, both portrait studies of theatre characters, as well as a lithograph and a limited edition artist book.

Born in Toronto in 1929, Gould studied drawing and painting at the Ontario College of Art from 1948 to 1952 and subsequently travelled to Europe where he studied at the Academie Julienne in Paris. In 1957, he began working for the CBC as a scene painter, and by 1960 won the Elizabeth T. Greenshield’s Fellowship for figurative painting. During the mid-1960s, Gould began to add a new dimension to his drawings by filming them and adding narrative elements and sound effects. Within a decade he created several films based on his impressions of people he encountered while travelling throughout Canada, Mexico, Japan and Peru. In the 1970s, Gould moved to Waubaushene, Ontario and began teaching as well as playing clarinet in the Fig Leaf Jazz Band.  In 1996 he suffered a stroke that affected the right side of his body, and his skills as a draughtsman had to be re-learned, resulting in a technically simplified but expressively intense final period to his work. Gould died in Barrie in January of 2010.