Building the Toronto Subway: John DeRinzy’s Art

John DeRinzy, Three Men With Jack Hammers (1950)

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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.

John DeRinzy, Underground Utilities, Yonge Street (1949)

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John DeRinzy, Welder (1950)

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John DeRinzy, Men Excavating in Timber Lined Trench (1950)

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John DeRinzy, Man With Jack Hammer (1950)

 

Image Credits: John DeRinzy; City of Toronto Archives

Bob Pitzel’s Art of the Vanishing Prairie

B. Pitzel, Redline (2009)

Our fresh snow cover here this morning sent me looking for some wintery inspiration, which I happily found in the wistful watercolors of Saskatchewan artist Bob Pitzel.  Pitzel’s art captures the stark and vanishing rural landscapes of western Canada, typified by imposing grain elevators, graying farmhouses and sheds that dot wide expanses of  prairie, and weathered fences erected more as barriers against the elements than to fence in or out people or creatures.

While Pitzel’s subject matter ranges beyond winter settings, it struck me while surveying his masterful work that many of his scenes are rendered with the coldest of seasons as a central element.  In the biography on his site, I love the ethos of humility, practicality and community that he expresses when noting that given the remoteness of rural life “we had to help ourselves out of the corners our inexperience got us into.”  More broadly, the following observation by Pitzel suggests some further inspiration for the muted emotional feel and sense of isolation conveyed in much of his winter-themed art:  “As the human race, we fool ourselves that we’re in control. But look at global warming, and history. At the end of the day, we’re only spectators.”

More about Pitzel and his wonderful watercolors can be found on his artist site here.

B. Pitzel, Trackside (2014)

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B. Pitzel, Deep Snow and Treeline Study (2010)

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B. Pitzel, Fresh Snow (2012)

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pitzel-pioneer-grain-lake-lenore

B. Pitzel, Pioneer Grain, Lake Lenore (2007)

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B. Pitzel, Maybe We’ll Start Her Up in Spring (2007)

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B. Pitzel, No Glass Left (2005)

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pitzel-six-in-a-row

B. Pitzel, Six in a Row (2014)

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pitzel-fuel-storage

B. Pitzel, Fuel Storage (2005)

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pitzel-regular-or-premium

B. Pitzel, Regular or Premium (2016)

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