This week at Banting House NHSC, I’ve been researching the large collection of Dr. Frederick Banting’s paintings that we have here in the museum. The ultimate goal is to publish a book for the 100th anniversary of the discovery of insulin that focuses on our collection and the amazing places that Banting travelled to. From the Canadian Rockies to the villages of Québec to the vast expanse of the Arctic, Banting travelled to many locales, and always had his sketchbook or paints ready. In his book about Banting, Lloyd Stevenson even wrote about Banting’s love for painting in new and interesting places, writing that “in open fields on sunny days, in the lee of wind-swept hills on chilly autumn afternoons, anywhere and everywhere that gave promise of good hunting for an artist, Banting set to work” (Stevenson 238).
Banting’s love of painting began while living in London, Ontario in 1920, when he saw a print in a store window and thought “I might paint such a picture” (Bliss 51). Banting then proceeded to buy the print, paints, and a brush, before setting to work. Painting on cardboard from a shirt that had been to the laundry, he created the painting that is pictured below. It is likely the only one to survive from Banting’s time in London.
In 1925, Banting’s great interest in art, and his desire to get away from the world of science and research for a short while, led him to join Toronto’s Arts and Letters Club. The Club was a gathering spot for some of Canadas most well-known artists at the time, including the Group of Seven. It was through the club that Banting got to know one of the founding members of the group, A. Y. Jackson, and they became very close. In fact, the two embarked on numerous sketching and painting trips together throughout the years. It was on these trips that Banting continued to develop his own personal style, which became very similar to the style of the Group of Seven. In fact, one painting that Banting completed of a winter scene in St. Tites des Capes, Quebec was actually mistaken for a work by A.Y. Jackson (Stevenson 234).
The evolution of Banting’s style can especially be seen though his two paintings, Jasper Park, 1926, and Rocky Mountains, Calgary, 1934. Both oil paints on wood, they depict very similar scenes from Alberta, with a body of water surrounded by trees in the foreground of the picture and a large mountain in the background. However, the style of the paintings is vastly different, and a strong influence from the Group of Seven can be seen in Banting’s 1934 painting, Rocky Mountains, Calgary.
There is so much more to be explored about Banting and his works of art, so make sure to keep an eye out for more information about our upcoming publication!
This post was written by Jenna Philbrick, Graduate research Assistant at Banting House NHSC. Jenna is currently completing her M.A. in Public History at Western University.
Stevenson, Lloyd. Sir Frederick Banting. The Ryerson Press, 1946.
Bliss, Michael. Banting: A Biography. University of Toronto Press, 1992.