Earls Court Gallery is proud to present Corry Wm. Brigden: a Retrospective. This exhibition celebrates the life and work of Corry William Brigden (CWB), a Hamilton artist that lived with a strong artistic intent that carried through all aspects and periods of his life.
As a member of the Brigden family, CWB had deep roots in the print industry and undoubtedly inherited the family’s keen eye for art and design. CWB ultimately found his calling as a teacher in the art department at Westdale Secondary High School and Central High School. CWB spent decades sharing his passion for art through education.
Though his art was seldom shown in exhibitions during his lifetime, CWB was a master of many mediums as proven through the works on display. The subjects of his artworks were inspired by his surroundings, often depicting familiar yet captivating scenes of Toronto city life, Ontario farms, Eastern Canada, and subjects inspired by his travels to Mexico and Europe. These themes appear in beautiful variations of prints, watercolours, and oil paintings, perfectly demonstrating his technical artistic capabilities.
Corry William Brigden’s role in Hamilton’s art history is a valuable one. As a long-time educator, CWB has inspired countless students, artists, family members, and friends through his art and will continue to do so for years to come.
Aurora Cacioppo Interim Curator
CORRY WM. BRIGDEN (1912-1979)
Corry William Brigden (CWB) was born in September of 1912 in Toronto, Ontario. His passion for art and nature was ignited as a young boy when his grandfather, a contributor to Canadian Geographic, would take CWB on field trips to sketch flora and fauna. CWB became an art student at Toronto’s Central Technical School, taught by Carl Schaeffer (1903-1995) and Charles Goldhamer (1903-1985). At the age of 24, he decided to devote his skills to teaching and worked part-time at the Art Gallery of Toronto and at Northern Vocational School in Toronto, eventually earning a full-time teaching position in the Art Department at Westdale Secondary School in Hamilton. While working at Westdale, CWB took art instruction classes from Hortense Gordon (1881-1961). It was at this time that he worked under the direction of Ida Hamilton (1887-1974), who was head of the Art Department. After Hamilton’s retirement in 1952, CWB succeeded her as Head of the Art Department at Westdale and in 1956, transferred to Central Secondary School in Hamilton.
CWB married Alison Sutcliffe in December of 1940. Together they purchased a farm in the township of Essa and began their family, which would grow to be five. However, his domestic life was interrupted in January 1943 when CWB enlisted with the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers. His term did not last a year, as he contracted polio, was discharged, and sent to Christie St. Hospital. There, he explored the artistic practices of leather and metal work as a form of rehabilitation. CWB’s health issues had a lasting effect on his life and were undoubtedly the main reason for his early retirement from teaching. CWB’s final years were spent pursuing his final business endeavour establishing Hawthorn Hill, an herb business where he grew and sold herbs from his farm in the township of Tay before he died in 1979.
Although he dedicated most of his time to teaching and was not an overly active member of artists’ groups and societies, CWB was still connected to and supported by a number of significant artists in Canada. As a first cousin once removed of Canadian painter Frederick Henry Brigden (1871-1956), CWB spent time sketching at Newtonbrook with F.H., and received career encouragement from his cousin through a number of letters. CWB was also a companion of Arthur Lismer (1885-1969), who sent letters of recommendation for CWB at the start of his career. Leonard Brooks (1911-2011), a dear friend of CWB, often accompanied him on painting trips up North and eventually to Mexico during the winter months at the end of his teaching career. As a printmaker and graphic designer, CWB often exchanged holiday cards with many local artists, including Leonard Hutchinson (1896 - 1980).
CWB occupied a number of art studios over the years. While living in Toronto, he shared a studio with artist Karl Schlichter at 35 Laplante Ave (1932). After moving to Hamilton, CWB set up studios at 77 Paisley Ave S (1936) and at 134 James St S (early 1940s). In these spaces, CWB produced artworks exhibiting great skill in the printmaking techniques of drypoint, engraving, etching and woodcuts. CWB found inspiration from Toronto intersections, historical buildings, and early Toronto suburbs, documenting familiar city life through his expert printmaking. His subjects shifted to country scenes when he made the move to Hamilton, often looking to rural landscapes, barns, and farm life as his muses, experimenting with watercolours and oils. His work also includes scenes of industrial Hamilton, although his style is quite different than Industrial Hamilton artist Leonard Hutchinson. Content from CWB’s travels are also popular in his works, including Northern Canadian landscapes, images of Eastern Canada, Italy, England, and scenes inspired from his winters spent in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.
CWB’s artwork is featured in the collections of notable institutions including the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Art Gallery of Hamilton. His work has been featured in many exhibitions, including Canadian National Exhibition art exhibitions (1934, 1935, 1936); the Canadian Society of Graphic Art (1934, 1936); the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour in Toronto (1936); Ontario Society of Artists (1936); Hamilton Art Association (1938); Art Club of Hamilton (1939); the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts; the Winston Hall YWCA; and Earls Court Gallery (2018).