Painter, watercolorist and draughtsman, Goodridge Roberts was born in Barbados on September 24, 1894, and died in Montreal on January 28, 1974. Coming from a family of poets and writers of Fredericton (N.-B.), he attended the École des beaux-arts de Montréal from 1923 to 1925 where he was deeply inspired by James Wilson Morrice and Puvis de Chavanne. Then, from 1926 to 1928, he continued his artistic training at the Art Students League in New York with John Sloan, Max Weber and Boardman Robinson, who introduced him to the Italian painters of the XIIIth and XIVth centuries, namely Giotto, as well as to the French Modernists. Incidentally, the latter had a significant influence on his art. Throughout his career, Roberts will equally value still life, character and landscape, three favorite themes that are characterized by the simplicity of the image, the sculptural side of forms and the stunning richness of colours. After completing his studies, he worked as a draughtsman for one year before moving to Ottawa. During the years spent in the Ottawa Valley, he designed an art course at the Ottawa Art Association where he also exhibited his work, and founded a summer art school near Wakefield, in the Gatineau area. He also produced a series of sketches that allowed him to find his style: free strokes, frontal compositions, rich and subtle colours that create strong contrasts between shadow and light. In 1932, he held his first solo exhibition at the Club des Arts de Montréal and after having been the first artist in residence at Queen’s University (1933-1936), he moved to Montreal where he spent the major part of his life. Together with Ernest Neumann, he founded the Roberts-Neumann School of Art. In 1937, his first participation in an international exhibition in London launched a series of others, both in the United States and Europe. Then, in 1938, he joined the Eastern Group of John Lyman and in 1939, he became a founding member of his Contemporary Art Society. A long teaching period at the Art Association of Montreal followed, except for two years where he was stationed in England as an official war artist. In 1952, Roberts was chosen with three other artists (David Milne, Emily Carr and Alfred Pellan) to represent Canada at the Venice Biennial. The following year, thanks to a scholarship granted by the Royal Canadian Academy, he left to paint in Europe, staying a few months in Paris, on Côte d’Azur and in Italy. Elected as a member of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1957, he became, two years later, the first artist in residence at New Brunswick University. In 1969, he was recognized with the Order of Canada and the National Gallery of Canada organized a travelling retrospective exhibition of his work, which was extremely rare for a living artist at that time. In 1999, the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal also presented a retrospective.
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