William Abernethy Ogilvie

1901 - 1989

William Abernethy Ogilvie Biography

1901 - 1989

Will Ogilvie was a renowned Canadian painter, and the first official Canadian war artist. His works were highly esteemed by his contemporaries such as Alex Colville and Charles Comfort.

Ogilvie was born in South Africa in 1901, and studied in Johannesburg under Erich Mayer from 1921 to 1924. He then immigrated to America and studied at the Art Students League in New York, under the tutelage of Kimon Nicolaïdes, who gave Ogilvie the foundations to create his war pieces. He returned to South Africa, and painted scenes that demonstrated his interest in figure study.

In 1932, he partnered with Charles Comfort and Harold Ayres to open an art office in Toronto, and worked on various art commissions. He joined the Canadian Army in 1940 and was commissioned as an official war artist two years later. After the war, Ogilvie taught at the Ontario College of Art from 1947 to 1957, and then as a lecturer at the University of Toronto from 1960 to 1969. He was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1979.

Ogilvie exhibited with the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour and the Canadian Group of Painters until his death in 1989, and his works are held in the Canadian War Museum, the Edmonton Art Gallery, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Hart House at the University of Toronto and the National Gallery of Canada. His war paintings are some of the most iconic pieces in Canadian art history, and are essential to understanding the country's past.