The winged victory on top of the Princes’ Gates is synonymous with the entrance to the Exhibition grounds. It is a favourite subject among photographers and tourists. The winged victory along with the other statuary on the Gates was created by sculptor Charles Duncan McKechnie in 1927.
Born in the county of Warwickshire, England in 1865, Charles McKechnie later crossed the pond to North America in 1904. Prior to that he had taught modelling and designing at the Birmingham School of Art. Charles studied at the Beaux-Arts school in Paris. He is best known for creating the winged victory atop the Princes’ Gates in 1927 as well as all the other statuary on the Gates.
Charles McKechnie worked very closely with Chapman and Oxley, the architects for the Princes’ Gates. The winged figure symbolizes the inspiration and determination of the past as it points the way toward the future. She is quite dynamic in pose while the other statuary seated on the pylons and standing on the pillars are static subjects. It is has been suggested that the sculpture was modeled after the Winged Victory of Samothrace, a classical Greek artifact housed in the Louvre.
Later in 1928 McKechnie was once again selected by architects Chapman and Oxley to design eight statues, comprised of two sets of four different figures for the top of the entrance to the newly constructed Electrical and Engineering Building. The Electrical and Engineering Building was erected in 1928 for the purpose of demonstrating to Canadians and to members of the British Empire the progress of hydro-electrical development and industrial activities in Ontario. Exhibits within the Electrical and Engineering Building featured the latest in electrical appliances and equipment for use in Canadian homes and industries. The statues, designed and executed by Charles McKechnie, are a tribute to industrial labour in Canada. When the Electrical and Engineering Building was demolished in 1972, the eight statues were salvaged and moved into storage. It wasn’t until 1997 that four of the statues found a new home in Heritage Court in the Enercare Centre.
Charles McKechnie also designed the statuary of the Ontario Government Building constructed in 1926 by architects Chapman and Oxley, today known as Liberty Grand. Two majestic lions are positioned on the south lawn of Liberty Grand while another two lions flank the building’s east entrance.
Charles McKechnie moved to British Columbia in the 1930s and later died from pneumonia in 1935 in Victoria, British Columbia.
Lion, sculpture part of the Liberty Grand Building, by C. McKechnie, 1926