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A friend and fellow painter, Peter J. Downing, once summed up his impression of Tom Chatfield, the artist: “Tom wants us to see Canada as he sees it and to know the awe and exhilaration of his experience. When you look at the superb individuality of his paintings, look deeply, think deeply…relive the sensitivities and emotions of Tom Chatfield, the man who painted them because of his love of the land.”
Born in Toronto, Ontario in 1921, Tom Chatfield had an ambition as a youngster in public school—to be a pilot. Before reaching high school, however, he was ‘grounded’ permanently, by his art teacher, Marjorie Hudgins. Long his number one fan, Miss Hudgins saw enough potential in young Chatfield to suggest art as a lifetime career. “She turned me on,” Chatfield admits. “I forgot about flying and devoted myself to learning how to draw and paint and it’s been my consuming commitment ever since.”
From public school, Chatfield went to Northern Vocational High School which provided him with a solid grounding through a spectrum of graphic forms. Graduating from Northern, he landed a job in the art department of Famous Players, Canada’s leading chain of motion picture theatres, where he designed newspaper ads by day and, by night, attended the Ontario College of Art.
Eight years at OCA persuaded Chatfield he wanted to be a portrait painter, but in the 1950’s, encouraged by a fellow-artist, he turned to landscapes and once again his orientation took a definitive turn.
By 1959, Tom Chatfield’s vigorously-painted landscapes were conveying enough individual style and impact to encourage Toronto’s Upstairs Gallery to stage his first one-man show. Since then he has had more than 30 one-man shows across Canada. Resigning from Famous Players in 1967, he began painting full-time in his home-studio in Oakville, a few miles west of Toronto.
A charter member and past-president of the Society of Canadian Artists, Chatfield exhibited with that organization, along with the Royal Canadian Academy, Ontario Society of Artists, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Waterloo University, and was an award-winner in the 1969 “Artists’ Choice” show as part of the Canadian National Exhibition.
Following his Upstairs Gallery debut, one-man shows by Chatfield were held in such Toronto Galleries as the Scottish Gallery (1962), Sobot Gallery annually form 1964-69 and the Shaw-Rimmington Gallery (1970-71).
In Oakville he exhibited at the Upper Canada Country Club (1965) and Arcade Gallery (1966). Shows were held in Edmonton’s Downstairs Gallery in 1969, 70, 71 and at the Hemingway Gallery in Jamestown, New York in 1969. Damkjar-Burton Gallery exhibited his work in 1968-69 and the Damkjar Gallery in nearby Burlington staged a show in 1971. His work was also shown in the United States and at a major exhibition at Canada House in London, England. For many years, Chatfield was represented by McLaren Barnes Gallery in Oakville.
Chatfield was a long-standing member of the Toronto Arts and Letters Club and a founding member of the Oakville Art Society.
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