• RUMI GALLERIES IS HONOURED TO ANNOUNCE OUR EXCLUSIVE REPRESENTATION OF

     

    THE ESTATE OF WILLIAM MCELCHERAN

  • An accomplished sculptor, draftsman, and designer of the 20th century, William Hodd McElcheran (1927 - 1999) worked in architectural design...

    William McElcheran in his studio. © The Estate of William McElcheran.

    An accomplished sculptor, draftsman, and designer of the 20th century, William Hodd McElcheran (1927 - 1999) worked in architectural design and produced a body of figurative works in drawing, painting and sculpture. A member of the Royal Canadian Academy, McElcheran's works are held in public, private and corporate art collections across Canada, the United States, Germany, Italy and Japan. His works are celebrated for their masterful design and execution, and for the affective sense of humanism that pervades his oeuvre. 

    Born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1927, McElcheran began to model portraits at the age of 10. At the age of 16, his technical skill and already substantial body of work earned the artist advanced standing into second year at the Ontario College of Art. There, he received a painting scholarship and later, the Lieutenant-Governor’s medal.


  • McElcheran's professional career began in architectural design. Following his graduation, the artist worked as a designer and woodcarver at Valley...
    William McElcheran, South Wind, Serpentine marble relief, over 25 ft. H, WaterPark Place, Toronto, Canada. Photograph by Christopher McElcheran. 
    © The Estate of William McElcheran.
    McElcheran's professional career began in architectural design. Following his graduation, the artist worked as a designer and woodcarver at Valley City Manufacture in Dundas, Ontario, designing artworks and furniture for churches. He was later invited to join the architectural firm, Bruce Brown and Brisley. In the 1950s, he worked as a liturgical designer for the firm, designing churches and university buildings. 

    In 1958, McElcheran was involved in the design of Divinity College and Chapel where he also created the sculptures in stone and wood in the interior. The first principal of McMaster Divinity College, Nathaniel H. Parker, wrote to McElcheran about his work on the chapel: “When we came to that point in our planning where we wanted a sculptor who had such gifts as would enable him to make the stones speak as we wanted them to speak, we had no hesitation in coming to you and I take great pleasure in telling you now that we are extremely happy with what you did.” He went on to express his belief that McElcheran’s carvings would “rank permanently amongst the choice artistic creations of contemporary young Canada.” 
  • McElcheran’s ability to make his materials “speak” is also evident in the sculptures that followed his liturgical work, most apparent,...
    William McElcheran, Conversation, Bronze, 77.9 x 44.8" in, 1980, City of Calgary Public Art Collection. © The Estate of William McElcheran.
    McElcheran’s ability to make his materials “speak” is also evident in the sculptures that followed his liturgical work, most apparent, perhaps, in the Businessman motif that remained present in the artist’s work from the mid-1960s onward. Responding to the larger-than-life heroes of classical art, McElcheran searched for an everyday non-hero who would express aspects of the human condition in the modern world. He arrived at the figure of the businessman. “My businessman,” the artist explained, “replaces the classical hero. All the classical artists were dealing with the heroic and how they could find images for this that were larger than life. I, on the other hand, am trying to find my image for the anti-ideal, my anti-hero. So the whole idea of my businessman is that he is exactly that sort of Everyman, the ubiquitous non-hero.” 
     
    Uniformly clad in coats, ties and hats, often with a briefcase, umbrella or telephone in hand, McElcheran’s businessmen are portly gentlemen who, while, homogenized in their corporate attire, are humanized by their distinct facial expressions and animated gestures. Depicted in bustling groups or presented as individuals, the businessmen are often shown mid-step as they rush dutifully to work, speak on the phone, or turn to glance at passing figures. Some are lost in thought and oblivious to their surroundings, while others appear startled or speak urgently about pressing matters. Through body language and the display of private emotions, McElcheran playfully mocked his subjects while simultaneously imbuing them with a deep sense of humanism that softened his satire. 
  • This sense of humanism was also a driving force behind McElcheran’s thoughts on architecture. In 1973, the artist established his...
    William Hodd McElcheran, Am I Last?, Bronze, 9.5 x 12.4 x 9.5" in, 1997, AP, Cast in 1997-98. 
    This sense of humanism was also a driving force behind McElcheran’s thoughts on architecture. In 1973, the artist established his own firm, Daedalus Designs, with a focus on the integration of art and architecture. He believed that art and decoration formed a necessary part of the experience of a building or space. “I think it’s very important to give people a sense of scale,” he explained, “especially when you’re making very large buildings that tend to dwarf people. I think sculptures and monuments can bring large buildings back to the scale of people…[Sculpture] really relates to people and helps to humanize architecture.” 
     
    A selection of works by William McElcheran will be featured in our upcoming Fall exhibition, 20 / 21 Canadian Art.