Robert W. Pilot

Robert W. Pilot is a painter born on October 9, 1898, in St. John’s (Newfoundland) and he died on December 17, 1967, in Montréal (Québec). His widowed mother married painter Maurice Cullen in 1910 and moved to his home in Montreal with her son. At an early age, Robert Pilot was interested in painting. He first assisted his stepfather in his workshop and accompanied him on his sketching trips during which he became familiar with depicting landscapes. Then, he attended the Council of Arts and Manufacturers to learn drawing under Edmont Dyonnet and Willian Brymner, and pursued his artistic training at the Art Association of Montreal. At the start of the First World War, he interrupted his studies to enrol in the Canadian army. At the end of the war, he dedicated himself to his passion and accepted the Group of Seven’s invitation to participate in their first exhibition in Toronto. However, he declined their offer to join the Group, first because he was based in Montreal and had close ties with the Beaver Hall artists and also because he did not quite share their way of thinking regarding the representation of Canadian wilderness landscapes. He had a strong preference for inhabited places, especially those of the Lower St. Lawrence. From 1920 to 1922, Pilot settled in Paris to study at the Académie Julian under Jean-Paul Laurens. He took advantage of his stay in France to paint in Cocarneau (Brittany) with Montreal artist Edwin Holgate. Back in Canada, he continued to dedicate himself to his art almost everywhere in Québec and in 1927, he went to paint in Spain and North Africa. After the Second World War, during which he enrolled again in the Canadian army, he resumed painting themes that made him famous: landscapes in the Laurentians, the Charlevoix region (Baie-Saint-Paul namely) as well as Québec City. He also made several sketches while travelling in England, Ireland, France and Italy. However, despite a proven success, Pilot was under the impression that his work was overshadowed by his stepfather’s. He then decided to explore mediums that were not used by Cullen, like etching, and finally managed to find his own path. Throughout his life, Pilot maintained his style which was softer than that of the many landscape artists who inspired him.

Among the honours that marked his career, one can mention the following: associate member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (1925), permanent member (1935), and president (1953-1954). In 1944, he received the Order of the British Empire and in 1969, two years after his passing, the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal presented a retrospective of his work

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