Telford Fenton (1932 – 2004)

Born in Chesley, Ontario, Telford Fenton was a daring and passionate artist whose work reached a maturity that secured him a serious position in Canadian art history. His energetic, spontaneous touch and strong colour sense resulted in paintings that were like good improvisation: engaging, unexpected, and strangely familiar.

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Fenton was a key figure in the second generation of Toronto abstract painters. His contemporaries, Graham Coughtry, Gordon Rayner, and Richard Gorman, are among those who inspired Fenton in his formative years. He was also influenced by abstract expressionism––particularly the works of Jackson Pollock––and German expressionism, wherein the focus is placed on pure painting and the evocation of an emotional response.


Fenton experienced a major hiatus in his artistic career from about 1962 through 1971, a period during which he drank heavily, suffered a heart attack, and underwent open-heart surgery. He was able to overcome this personal crisis to resume his career and carried on to produce a remarkable body of work.


Fenton’s paintings speak of pure joy and demonstrate a constant reaffirmation of life. He was a master draftsman, handling oil paint with remarkable virtuosity and literally drawing with his colour-loaded brush. His bold colours were often squeezed directly from the tube, resulting in compositions that were strong and lyrical. Fenton was versatile in his subject matter and produced works of still life, landscapes, dramatic New York scenes, and vibrant portraiture. His paintings can be found in private collections in Canada, the United States, Brazil, Great Britain, and Australia, and in the collections of Jack Pollock, Donald Trump, Patrick Watson, and Donald Sutherland.