1904 - 1974
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Goodridge Roberts was born in Barbados in 1904 while his parents were on holiday from New Brunswick. Born to a prominent Canadian literary family, Roberts’ father, Theodore Goodridge Roberts, was a poet, novelist, and journalist. He spent some of his formative years in England, where his father was stationed during World War I. It was his frequent visits to Kensington Gardens that sparked his interest in drawing and painting. Roberts’s family moved back to Canada in 1919 and settled in Fredericton.
Roberts began his studies at Montreal’s École des Beaux-Arts in 1924 under Edmond Dyonnet and Charles Maillard and won all the student prizes during his first year. Encouraged by his art-critic aunt, Mary Fanton Roberts, he enrolled at New York’s Art Students League in 1926, where he studied under John Sloan, Max Weber and Boardman Robinson. His New York schooling would prove to be a major influence on his career. Upon his return to Fredericton in 1929, Roberts undertook a variety of jobs including sales and teaching.
During the 1930s Roberts lived, painted, and taught in Ontario. He had his first one-man show at the Arts Club of Montréal in 1931, organized by fellow Beaux-Arts student Ernst Neumann. Roberts was introduced to Canadian Artist John Lyman, who gave Roberts his first critical recognition and acquired a work. From 1933–1936, he was the first artist-in-residence at Queens University in Kingston. When his residency was not renewed, he moved to Montréal, where he shared a studio and opened the Roberts-Neumann School of Art with Ernst Neumann. In 1938 he had his first major exhibition at W. Scott and Sons in Montreal with renowned Canadian artist A.Y. Jackson. He became a charter member of the Eastern Group of Painters the same year, and in 1939, exhibited at the New York World’s Fair.
Roberts taught at the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts from 1940–1952. He experienced his first financial success in 1943 with the sale of forty-eight of sixty works exhibited at the Dominion Gallery in Montreal, where he continued to show annually until 1956. He enlisted in the army in 1943 and was made an official war artist for the Royal Canadian Air Force until 1945. In 1953, Roberts was awarded an overseas fellowship by the Canadian government which enabled him to work and study painting for a year in France. He subsequently travelled and exhibited abroad regularly.
In 1957, Roberts was awarded his second Jessie Dow Prize at the Spring Exhibition of the Art Association of Montreal and the Junior League Award at the Winnipeg Show. In 1958 he participated in the Inter-American Biennial of Painting in Mexico and at the Canadian Pavilion at the Brussels International and Universal Exhibition. In 1959 he won the Glazebrook award for landscpape at the National Gallery of Canada’s 3rd Biennial of Canadian Art. From 1959–1960, Roberts was resident artist at the University of New Brunswick, wherehe was awarded an Honorary degree.
The National Gallery of Canada held a retrospective show of Roberts’ work in 1969 and he was made a member of the Order of Canada the same year. Following his death in 1974, a retrospective show was held at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario. The retrospective travelled to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, The Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of London.
In 1964, he won the A. J. Casson Award, the annual ‘Open Water’ competition run by the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour.