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William Goodridge Roberts

William Goodridge Roberts

Canadian, 1904-1974

William Goodridge Roberts was a Canadian painter celebrated for his poetic compositions painted using expressive brush-strokes. With a life-long commitment to Modernism, he was one of the founding members of the Contemporary Arts Society. He was also one of the first Canadian painters to treat landscape, figurative, and still life subject matter with equal importance. 

Roberts was born in Barbados, British West Indies in 1904 and was raised in New Brunswick. He studied at the École des beaux-arts in Montreal from 1923-1925 and at the Art Students League in New York from 1926 to 1928. In 1930, Roberts had his first solo exhibition in Ottawa, and had his first international exhibition in London in 1937. More exhibitions followed in both the United States and Europe. In the late 1930s, he moved to Montreal, where he remained for the majority of his life.

Throughout his career, Roberts received many honours for his work. His art was exhibited at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York. His works, alongside those of Emily Carr, David Milne, and Alfred Pellan, were chosen for Canada’s first presentation at the Venice Biennale in 1952. The following year, he was awarded a scholarship from the Canadian government to study painting in France. He won the Glaxebrook award at the National Gallery of Canada in 1959. In that same year, Roberts was represented by Galerie l’Art Français and was the resident artist at the University of New Brunswick. In 1964, he won the A. J. Casson Award for watercolour painting from the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour. He was also a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and was an Officer of the Order of Canada.

During his lifetime, he was given a traveling retrospective exhibition by the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. Following his death, he was the subject of various museum solo exhibitions. Today, his work can be found in many prestigious public collections throughout Canada and abroad.