ALFRED JOSEPH CASSON, O.S.A., P.R.C.A.
STREET IN GLEN WILLIAMS
oil on canvas
37 ins x 45 ins; 92.5 cms x 112.5 cms
Painted circa 1938.
Duval (1951) writes that the Ontario village has provided Casson with themes for many of his canvases. Hamlets, such as Glen Williams, have attracted his fond attention since the early 1920s: “Since his first watercolour of Etobicoke’s Old Mill, he has been drawn to the rendering of rural architecture.”
Duval (1980) writes that Casson has wandered up and down virtually every village street in Southern Ontario, with pencil or brush in hand, looking for likely architectural sitters: “He has portrayed mills, stores, barns, houses, cabins, sheds and factories...One of his requirements of a subject has always been a pervasive sense of the humanity that built it or lives in it. Whether or not there are people in view in a Casson village painting, one almost always senses their presence behind the walls or just out of view. Like the American painter, Edward Hopper, Casson manages to imbue his rural structures with deeply human overtones.”
Casson undoubtedly found in the small town theme much that was sympathetic to his own character. The order, simplicity and craftsmanship found in the details of early domestic Ontario architecture are paralleled in his own personality. As Duval (1980) observes “Casson has never cut baroque swathes across the Canadian art scene, but quietly cultivated his own special and enduring place in it.”
The steady progressive integration and clarification of Casson’s approach to the subject of the Ontario village is, according to Duval, typical of the artist: “The village allowed full play for his acute sense of pattern, permitting him to counterpoint sharply defined colours and shapes against one another into telling transformations. He returned the opportunity, with serenely organized and unhackneyed compositions of praise which bespeak a continuing affection - an affection prompted by the artist’s presence where he is close to a happy meeting between man and his handiwork.”
Glen Williams is a hamlet nestled in the Credit River Valley in the Halton Region of Ontario. The village was named after its founder, Benajah Williams, a United Empire Loyalist who bought 200 acres in 1825 and another 200 in 1833. Glen Williams quickly grew to become a thriving community based on grist, lumber and woolen mills. Many of these buildings still exist today and are home to artists, jewellers, sculptors, potters and glassblowers.
Duval (1980) explains that Street in Glen Williams is basically the enlargement of a single sketch. Foliage plays a greater compositional part in this picture than in any other village canvas (except Elms, 1933). Duval notes: “Casson has recorded small towns in every season, and Street in Glen Williams is unquestionably his key autumn portrayal.” Duval concludes: “It is a picture the artist remembers as being particulary enjoyable to paint, and the evidence of the canvas itself bears this out.”
Paul Duval, A.J. Casson, The Ryerson Press, Toronto, 1951, pages 27-29 and page 47, reproduced.
Paul Duval, A.J. Casson/His Life & Works/A Tribute, Toronto, 1980, pages 83-90.
H.E. Saunders, Toronto.
Roberts Gallery, Toronto.
Private Collection, Ontario.
59th Annual Exhibition, Royal Canadian Academy of Artists, Art Gallery of Toronto, Toronto, 18 Nov-18 Dec, 1938, no.37.
Department: Canadian Fine Art
Provenance: Roberts Gallery, Toronto