Homage to Robert F. Kennedy

William Ronald (1926 - 1998)
Acrylic on particleboard panels placed together to span 4 stories of the NAC. Blocks of pink, orange, blue, yellow, and white span the panels with abstract shapes of black, green, blue, purple, pink and orange dancing on top.
© Justin Wonnacott
ArtistWilliam Ronald (1926 - 1998)
Nationality Canadian
Medium Acrylic on particleboard
Dimensions 13.4m x 18.3m (assembled with 98 panels)
Acquisition Commission
Date 1969

This giant, four-story mural, the largest work of William Ronald’s (1926 – 1998) career, was commissioned by the NAC for the Studio Foyer. Its abstract, freewheeling design and vibrant colours are intended to represent the experimental quality of the shows being presented in the Centre’s most flexible performance hall. Having lived and worked in New York, Ronald was strongly influenced by American culture. The mural is an homage to Robert F. Kennedy who was assassinated during his presidential campaign shortly before Ronald accepted the commission. The work was created and installed with the help of Rob Kirkpatrick, whose initials appear in the lower-left corner of the artwork alongside the artists.

Born in Stratford, Ontario, William Ronald grew up in Brampton, Ontario. At the age of 20, he moved to Toronto to study painting at the Ontario College of Art. He held his first solo show in 1954 at Hart House, University of Toronto. In 1957, he won an award at the Second Biennial Exhibition of Canadian Painting at the National Gallery in Ottawa. From 1957 to 1963 Ronald lived and worked in New York, where he attracted international attention through a series of six shows at the influential Kootz Gallery. He was a founding member of “Painters Eleven,” a major movement in abstract, modern Canadian art in the 1950s. On his return to Canada, he set up a studio in Toronto and began a successful career in broadcasting with roles at both the CBC and CityTV. In 1977 he hit upon the idea of painting abstract portraits of Canada’s Prime Ministers. The most successful work from this collection was the abstract painting of the sitting Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Ronald’s bold, boisterous spirit was evident in his artworks until his death at age 71.

Ronald’s brother, John Meredith, was also an artist and his work can be found on the fourth floor of the NAC. The two shared the last name Smith, but both worked professionally using only their first and second names.

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