William Ronald, R.C.A. (August 13, 1926 – February 9, 1998) (born William Ronald Smith, was an important Canadian painter, best known as the founder of the influential Canadian abstract art group Painters Eleven in 1954. He was also the older brother of painter John Meredith (1933–2000).

William Ronald
Willam Ronald Smith

(1926-08-13)August 13, 1926
DiedFebruary 9, 1998(1998-02-09) (aged 71)
Barrie, Ontario
Known forPainting
MovementPainters Eleven



William Ronald was a graduate of the Ontario College of Art who quickly found that abstract painters could not get their work exhibited in Toronto galleries. Working for the Robert Simpson Co. department store, he persuaded management to pair abstract paintings with furniture displays, thereby discovering a way to get the public to accept non-representational art. Despite the success of that show, Abstracts at Home, Ronald resented the city's general attitude toward its artists and moved to the United States, eventually becoming an American citizen. Ronald shared a studio with Frank Stella and joined the stable of artists at Manhattan's Kootz Gallery, where he was put on retainer. He was quickly accepted by critics and collectors and enjoyed a multi-year period of success. Eventually, Ronald returned to Toronto, as a landed immigrant in the country of his birth, partly for personal reasons and partly because he could not agree with Kootz. He was made a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts[1]

Besides painting, he became known as a CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) journalist, hosting such shows as Umbrella and As It Happens, a columnist for the Toronto Telegram, and host of a Citytv variety show. He continued to paint through the 1970s, '80s and '90s, moving to Montreal, Quebec, and then to Barrie, Ontario where he maintained an active studio. He gained some notoriety for his portrait series of Canadian Prime Ministers, a pioneering highly abstracted portrayal of heads of government opened by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in Toronto. The exhibition toured Canada, despite warnings not to exhibit the less than flattering portrait of then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. They are currently part of the permanent collection of the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery in Kitchener, Ontario. Never a stranger to criticism or polemics, Ronald loved to paint in public, frequently hiring strippers and showgirls to dance around him as he painted. He continued to paint until his death in 1998 and in fact suffered a heart attack while painting. He lived long enough to name the work Heart Attack and succumbed a few days later.

Selected exhibitionsEdit

  • 1957-1960: Kootz Gallery, NYC
  • 1960: Laing Galleries, Toronto
  • 1963: Isaacs Gallery, Toronto
  • 1962-1963: Kootz Gallery, NYC
  • 1963: Princeton University Art Gallery
  • 1965: David Mirvish Gallery, Toronto
  • 1970: Dunkelman Gallery, Toronto
  • 1971: Tom Thompson Memorial Gallery, Owen Sound, Ontario
  • 1975: Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Ontario
  • 1977-1980: Morris Gallery, Toronto
  • 1984: Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
  • 1985: Musée d'art de Joliette, Québec
  • 1996: Christopher Cutts Gallery, Toronto
  • 2000: Christopher Cutts Gallery, Toronto

Selected collectionsEdit

  • Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
  • National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa
  • Museum of Modern Art, NYC
  • Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh
  • Musée d'art de Joliette, Québec
  • Guggenheim Museum, NYC
  • Albright Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo
  • Art Institute of Chicago
  • Montreal Museum of Fine Arts
  • York University, Toronto
  • Princeton University Art Gallery
  • Whitney Museum of Art, NYC
  • Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queens University, Kingston, Ontario
  • Brooklyn Museum, NYC
  • Edmonton Art Gallery, Alberta
  • Hirshhorn Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington
  • The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville
  • Stamford Museum, Stamford, CT


  1. ^ "Members since 1880". Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Retrieved 11 September 2013.


  • Belton, Robert J. (1999). The Theatre of the Self: The Life and Art of William Ronald. Calgary: University of Calgary Press. ISBN 1-895176-60-3.
  • Grossman, Penny-Lynn (Fall 1997). "William Ronald: Then and Now". Artfocus. 61.
  • Robert McLaughlin Gallery (1975). Ronald: 25 Years. Exhibition catalogue.

External linksEdit