Canadian Fine Art Auction

November 23, 2015

LOT 72

Lot 72


Lot 72 Details


acrylic on canvas
signed and dated ‘84; also signed, titled and dated “Oct. 9 ‘84” on the reverse
60 ins x 78 ins; 152.4 cms x 198.1 cms

Estimate $15,000-$20,000

Realised: $28,320
Price Includes Buyer's Premium ?

Lot Report

Additional Images

Private Collection, Toronto


David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff, Contemporary Canadian Art, Hurtig Publishers, Edmonton, 1983, page 57.

Iris Nowell, Painters Eleven: The Wild Ones of Canadian Art, Douglas & McIntyre, Toronto, 2010, pages 73-75.


One of Canada’s first abstract expressionist painters to earn a reputation in New York’s 1960s art scene, William Ronald became a sensation in Canada, bridging his artistic practice with criticism, broadcasting, and a larger-than-life persona. When the Guggenheim Museum opened its new modernist home at 1071 5th Avenue in New York, Ronald was the youngest artist represented in its permanent collection.

After attracting critical success as a member of the Painters Eleven early in his career Ronald continued to "attack" his canvases, as David Burnett and Marilyn Schiff wrote, "with an impatience which prevented him from settling into a single mode." His exuberance propelled him toward television and radio broadcasting while also continuing to paint. From 1969-1972 he hosted the CBC radio program As it Happens, and from 1966-1967 a television variety show about the arts called The Umbrella. Then, in the 1970s Ronald returned to painting with a renewed seriousness, producing a large body of new work for inclusion in the 1975 retrospective, Ronald: 25 Years, organized by the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Ontario.

Less than a decade later, Ronald embarked on the bold undertaking of painting a portrait of every Canadian Prime Minister. The sixteen resulting works, painted over a period of seven years, toured Ontario and Quebec in 1984. Bye Bye Blackbirds was painted that same year, an expressive by-product of a particularly creative streak in Ronald's later oeuvre. At first appearance, Bye Bye Blackbirds seems monochromatic, but the black silhouettes of its surface hover over a purposefully layered background of colour. Much looser than his “central image” paintings of the 1960s, Bye Bye Blackbirds has much visual semblance with Ronald’s automatic watercolours of the same period, which are still regarded as some of the artist’s finest work.

This work will be included in Iris Nowell’s forthcoming monograph on the artist due to be released in Fall 2016.


For condition information please contact the specialist.

LOT 72

About Condition Ratings

  • 5 Stars: Excellent - No discernable damage, flaws or imperfections
  • 4 Stars: Very Good - Minor flaws or imperfections visible only under close inspection using specialised instruments or black light
  • 3 Stars: Good - Minor flaws visible upon inspection under standard lighting
  • 2 Stars: Fair - Exhibits flaws or damage that may draw the eye under standard lighting
  • 1 Star: Poor - Flaws or damage immediately apparent under standard lighting (examples: missing components, rips, broken glass, damaged surfaces, etc.)

Note: Condition ratings and condition details are the subjective opinions of our specialists and should be used as a guide only. Waddington’s uses due care when preparing condition details, however, our staff are not professional restorers or conservators. Condition details and reports are not warranties and each lot is sold “as is” in accordance with the buyer’s terms and conditions of sale. In all cases the prospective purchaser is responsible for inspecting the property themselves prior to placing a bid.