Unless you were around when it was built (I wasn’t, by the way!), it’s difficult to imagine how massive an undertaking it was to build Toronto’s subway system. Shortly before it’s opening in 1954, local artist John DeRinzy, who worked as a graphics designer for Simpson’s department store (later part of the Hudson’s Bay chain), documented the progress of this major public works project in a series of watercolor and charcoal landscapes. His inclusion of workers in these images helps the viewer to connect emotionally to the scenes depicted. They are reminiscent of the style displayed by public art of the New Deal era a couple of decades earlier in the U.S. (DeRinzy’s work also brings to mind Caven Atkins’ painting “Arc Welder Working on Bulkhead” (1943), which can be seen in this 2013 O’Canada post.)
More background on these images can be found in the City of Toronto Archives here.
Image Credits: John DeRinzy; City of Toronto Archives
A sidebar to your post, the Toronto Subway font is one of my all-time favorites. This is it: http://www.quadrat.com/ts.html
Thanks for sharing this, which is so true. I’ve seen several posters with that font and it’s definitely striking!
I’ve never seen this art before, it’s really beautiful. 😎
There’s something about this that reminds me of William McElcheran’s works, one of which is also featured in Dundas Subway Station. Not entirely the same subject but it’s got the same feel.
Thanks for mentioning McElcheran, who I had not previously heard of an who I just looked up. 🙂
You’re welcome. I like noticing these little details around Toronto meself. 🙂
I really enjoyed these, and I appreciated to link to DeRinzy’s artist’s philosophy. My favorite is the welder. There is something evocative about a man creating sparks with metal, almost primal.
Liz, you have a keen eye! 🙂
Man, these are great ‘industrial’ style images…. love it ! 🙂
Chris, that’s a good description.
Brett: I love that kind of art ! 🙂
I am always impressed by how much more vivid paintings seem than photographs.
The right painting brings elements to the table that photographs don’t.
I just checked out William McElcheran’s scultpures and found them fascinating. There’s a compelling complexity about those portly businessmen that seems to cry out for ekphrastic poetry.
His statues are distinctive, for sure.
Liz, I’m pretty well read but “ekphrastic” is a new word and concept for me — had to look that one up. 🙂
😃 I first encountered the term in a call for submissions, not in any of lit courses I took.
These are wonderful paintings Brett. As one of your other readers noted, they show a really strong and industrial spirit.
Wouldn’t those who helped construct the subway back in the 1950s be saddened know that the TTC has been in a steady state of decline during the past 10 years or so. As an unwilling resident of this city, I can attest to the daily breakdowns, malfunctions and delays, all the result of inadequate funding.
For quite some time now, the joke has been “TTC?” It means “Take the Car!”
Thanks for sharing this, Richard. As vast as the Toronto metro area is, having solid public transit is important. Nice use of humour by Torontonians.
There must be something “subway” in the air–I just read an article last week about construction of the Chicago Red Line subway underneath the Chicago River. No art, but plenty of amazing photographs.
Building a subway tunnel under a river sounds daunting!
What a hard job that must have been in those days.
Very much so. 🙂
I love the depiction of the Toronto Subway in its infant stages of construction, Brett. Are you familiar with Edwin McCormick’s work? He too created his rendition of the work being done on the subway through his paintings: https://www.ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/History/cavalcade_of_progress.jsp Cher xo
Cher, thanks for sharing this and the link. That’s a great resource on the history of the subway. Wonderful work by McCormick as well. 🙂
Most welcome, Brett. I had only seen McCormick’s work, so thank you for introducing DeRinzy’s work to us! Cher xo
🤓 always cool to look back and I appreciate the art ☺️ smiles Hedy
Hedy, thanks! 🙂
Can almost hear that jack hammer ☺️
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Wonderful artwork, thank you so much for sharing 🌟👍
I hd to go back and check the date. The drawings have a very 1930s feel about them but somehow they don’t, although I couldn’t tell you why.
Yes, I originally thought they were from an earlier era as well.
Wow … these images are powerful, and they do remind one of industrial images … thanks for sharing this!
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I like this. Social realism. We need more art depicting labor.
This is good art!
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This work is created by my grandfather. Thanks for all your positive comments on here of the work.