Painter, educator, and academic, Lawrence Arthur Colley Panton served in the Army from 1916 to 1919. Upon returning home, he took up art classes at the Ontario College of Art as well as the Central Technical School in Toronto. He worked at Rous and Mann Limited as a designer under Albert H. Robson until 1924, when he began teaching at the Central Technical School.
From there he moved on to become the Art Director of Western Technical and Northern Technical Schools, ultimately becoming Principal of the Ontario College of Art from 1951 until his death.
In ‘Silver Stream’, Panton puts one firmly in front of a raging stream, literally immersing and overwhelming the viewer with the majesty and power of the great Canadian landscape.
Painted about 1940, well before his shift to a new way of seeing, ‘Silver Stream’ retains the 1930s stylizations that figure so prominently during this period. This can be seen in the jagged rocks with water pouring over them, as well as in the billowing trees, which seem to sway with as much movement as the stream itself.
In ‘Windswept’, an earlier work, Panton shows an ensemble of majestic trees, in the dancing in an elegant movement from the winds or from their internal energies. Through the blackened trunks we look beyond and into the distance at the ever increasing greyness and loss of detail, until only an impression of form is recognized. In a 1954 issue of Saturday Night, it was said “he turned increasingly to abstract forms” and that “there is a strong element of mysticism and a striving to express eternal truths through visual forms.”
The Art Gallery of Ontario held a memorial exhibition in 1955. Hart House at the University of Toronto held a retrospective of forty-three works in 1974, and another retrospective exhibit and catalogue titled Towards a Lyrical Abstraction was held at the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1991.
Panton was a member of the Ontario Society of Artists, the Royal Canadian Academy, the Canadian Group of Painters, the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour, the Canadian Society of Graphic Arts, and the Canadian Society of Painters, Etchers and Engravers. He also served on the committee of the Canadian National Exhibition as well as the National Industrial Design Committee. His work is held in many private, corporate and public collections including the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Ontario and the National Gallery of Canada.
As the artist himself wrote, “The truest and soundest development of the artistic potentialities of Canadian art requires that artists critically re-examine their beliefs in what thery are doing and, more particularly, why they are doing it.”