Canadian artist Frederick Stanley Haines was born into an artistically inclined family in Meaford, Ontario, which at the time was a vibrant, expanding and optimistic town. The railway had just recently connected the town to Toronto, and it boasted five hotels, many taverns and a lively social life.
Haines attended the newly built Meaford High School and left for Toronto at the age of seventeen to enrol in the Central Ontario School of Art (later to become the Ontario College of Art). He was able to support himself by painting portraits, and was proud to claim that from then on he could make a living by art alone.
Haines was the president of the Ontario Society of Artists, a founding member of the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour, a founding member of the Canadian Society of Etchers and Printers, the curator of the Art Gallery of Ontario and a well loved and respected principal of the Ontario College of Art.
At a young age he was accepted as a member of the Royal Canadian Academy, and later became its president. By resigning from that “creakily venerable institution”, Haines attained a moral victory that led to the rewriting of its constitution.
He was a contemporary and friend of the members of the Group of Seven and was instrumental in convincing his first cousin Franklin H. Carmichael to pursue the arts professionally, a most precarious profession to choose in those times. Haines was able to assuage Franklin’s parents’ fears of the moral and financial hazards of pursuing art in the big city.
As a more established and successful colleague of the Group of Seven, he invited Carmichael and some other members of the group to teach at the Ontario College of Art, much to the benefit of its students. He was instrumental in tremendously increasing student enrolment, introducing new courses of study, and establishing a much wider participation of artists in the community by promoting advertising and industrial design.
Haines’ work ‘Rural Bridge’ was commissioned by Sampson-Matthews to represent simple efforts. The bridge was overlooked as a simple means to get from here to there by people and livestock alike. The cold winter is created with grey sky tones, and the water icy cold but not quite frozen over. This same bridge was painted by Suzor-Côté in 1921 and is also known as Bourbeau Bridge in rural Quebec. The figure with a dog and walking cane is determined and accustomed to this way of life.
As the Commissioner of Fine Arts for the Canadian National Exhibition, Haines educated Ontarians by introducing paintings by Picasso, Salvador Dali and Matisse. He also provided Canadians with the first glimpse of Danish and Scandinavian modern design. He traveled extensively for the Canadian National Exhibition and brought the first large show of Mexican and Southwestern U.S. Arts and Crafts to Toronto.
His association with the CNE lasted from 1920 to 1951. In 1929, under Haines’ direction and guidance, eight huge murals were painted and installed in the dome of the Arts, Crafts and Hobbies building at the CNE. Even though these paintings suffered greatly through neglect and abuse over the years, restorers have worked hard to reverse the deterioration. Today the Haines’ murals are permanently displayed in the Direct Energy Centre at the CNE.
Haines’ works can today be found in the National Gallery of Canada, Hart House at the University of Toronto, and many other public and private collections.