Our next Artist You Need To Know is Telford Fenton (1932 – 2004).

Fenton was born in Chesley, Ontario in 1932 and exhibited a unique, spontaneous style, employing strong colour and with an energetic sense of improvisation that complimented his discipline in composition. He painted a variety of subject matter, from portraits to landscapes to still life.

Toronto Star arts writer Christopher Hume (in response to Fenton’s work at the Lake Galleries, Toronto, in 1992) offered the following : “Here’s someone who appreciates flamboyance. An extravagant painter of grand gestures and loud, acidic colors, Fenton loves drama. His ability to reconcile the abstract and figurative and extract a likeness from canvases crawling with pigment, borders on the amazing. Though there isn’t a politician in the bunch, his sitters include some of the country’s best known artists, such as Gordon Rayner, Graham Coughtry, the late Robert Markle, as well as former art dealers Av Isaacs and Jack Pollock. Performers Fenton painted include Marilyn Monroe, Sammy David Jr., Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Tony Bennett. He had also done on-the-spot conté drawings of the Camelot cast prior to opening on Broadway: Richard Burton, Robert Goulet, Julie Andrews, Robert Cootes; the Toronto cast of Cabaret and numerous drawings from life of the National Ballet Company of Canada.” (from here)



He graduated from the Ontario College of Art in 1958 (earning the T. Eaton Co. Award) and continued his studies at the Chelsea Polytechnical School in London in the UK later that same year. Felton was influenced and inspired by contemporary Canadian painters like Graham Coughtry, Gordon Rayner and Richard Gorman (all three have previously been featured as Artists You Need To Know in this series), as well as the German Expressionists and American Abstract Expression, especially the paintings of Jackson Pollock. He was attracted to the idea of ‘pure painting’ and ‘the evocation of an emotional response’ through art. Fenton – like the aforementioned three AYNTK artists – is usually grouped in with the ‘second generation’ of Toronto abstract painters





For over a decade (from 1962 through to 1971) Fenton’s artistic practice was very stuttered : during this time he drank to excess, endured a heart attack and subsequent open heart surgery. However, he resumed his impressive and unique practice and was creating works until his passing decades later.




Described as a master draftsman, Fenton was skilled in his use of oil paint : his intense colours were often direct from the tube, and many of his compositions were drawn with a brush thick with paint and a sure sense of mark making. “His energetic, spontaneous touch and strong colour sense resulted in paintings that were like good improvisation: engaging, unexpected, and strangely familiar.” (from Harbour Gallery)

His works are in numerous private collections in Canada, the United States, Brazil, Great Britain, and Australia.



Telford Fenton passed away in 2004.There is s short documentary about Fenton’s life and work that can be enjoyed here. The critic and curator Adam Barbu asserts that “Fenton’s paintings speak of pure joy and demonstrate a constant reaffirmation of life.”