Harold Town

About Harold Town

Harold Town

Harold Town



Born in Toronto in 1924, Harold Town studied at the Western Technical School and the Ontario College of Art. In 1944, he began work as a commercial illustrator designing covers for MacLeans Magazine and ultimately illustrations for Leonard Cohen’s book Beautiful Losers and Irving Layton’s Love Where the Nights are Long.

Town played an important role in the development of abstract art in Canada. In 1954, he coined the name of the group Painters Eleven for the dynamic group of abstract painters he had just joined. Painters 11 included Jack Bush and William Ronald. Through the 1950s, Town achieved tremendous recognition for his multi-media and innovative artwork including his autographic or monotype prints

Introduced to lithography by Painters 11 colleague Oscar Cahen, Town developed a novel method of producing monoprints that he called "single autographic prints." Using lithography and inked cut outs and stencils he worked on several prints at once over a period of days. The autographic prints comprised his first significant body of work. 

Between 1957 and 1964, the charismatic and outspoken Town had 15 solo exhibitions – in Toronto, Montreal, Regina, Vancouver, New York and New Jersey, and his work was included in 70 group exhibitions in Canada and internationally. A 1958 mural commission for Ontario Hydro for which he was paid $10,000. made Town a national figure. Newspaper and magazine coverage followed.

Town represented Canada in the 1956 and 1965 Venice Biennale, and participated in the Milan Triennial, the Bienal de São Paulo, Documenta in Kassel and the World’s Fair in Brussels. He was the recipient of a Guggenheim award in 1960, and in 1966 received an honorary doctorate from York University in Toronto as well as the Order Of Canada. His work is in the collections of London’s Tate Gallery, and the Guggenheim, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art in New York. Retrospectives of his work were held at the Windsor Art Gallery in 1975 and the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1986.