For more than 30 years, Ed Bartram, one of Canada’s foremost painter/printmakers, consistently found his source of inspiration to be the rugged northern landscape of the Precambrian Shield.
On August 25th, 2019, he died at the age of 81. The Toronto Star published an article about his life and career that can be read here.
Unlike his predecessors, such as the Group of Seven, Bartram explored contemporary techniques and influences to focus upon the abstract and dynamic elements in the landscape. With his innovative techniques, he effectively captured the powerful forces which were at work during the formation of Georgian Bay’s metamorphic bedrock.
Inspired by Georgian Bay’s unique landscape, Ed Bartram translated its precambrian rocks, clear waters, and windswept trees into paintings, prints and photographs for over 50 years. Born in London, Ontario in the late 1930s, Ed graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a BA in History and went on to get his MA in Art History from the University of Toronto. He became an instructor of Art History and Printmaking at the Ontario College of Art and Design University, where he taught until his retirement in 2003. He then worked on his art full-time on Bartram Island in the summer and King Creek in the winter.Ed first discovered his island studio, Bartram Island, while leading canoe trips from Camp Hurontario.
Having studied the art of the Abstract Expressionists, Ed became fascinated by the structures of the island’s precambrian rock surfaces. While working on a series of etchings inspired by computer circuits, he realized that the rock formations under his feet contained the gestures and energies of the New York School. In 1970, Bartram began several oil paintings and the ‘Canadian Shield’ series of etchings, all inspired by the rocks of Georgian Bay. The Canadian Shield series established Bartram’s national reputation as an important printmaker. He received a number of awards for his work and became a member of the Ontario Society of Artists and the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. He has been represented by the Mira Godard Gallery in Toronto since the 1980s, and they continue to represent him posthumously.
Georgian Bay and the Canadian Shield formed the basis of Bartram’s imagery since 1970, and he continued to experiment with different printmaking techniques, from photo etching to mixed media carborundum prints. Bartram executed and printed by hand all of his images on an etching press in his King City print studio. While working on the island, Ed worked on large paintings on canvas that depicted both landscapes and extreme close-ups of Georgian Bay’s rocks, employing acrylic medium and black sand obtained from nearby beaches to give the paintings textures nearly indecipherable from the rocks on which they are painted.