When the Queen Elizabeth Building opened in 1957, it boasted an impressive copper sculpture by sculptor Elizabeth Wyn Wood. The artist had been commissioned to create a sculpture for the entrance of the new theatre inside the building. Inspired by the theatre arts Wood created a sculpture depicting the many phases for which the theatre could be used. Symbolizing most of the arts of the modern theatre, Wood created the rose and fan that suggest romance, while the ballet figures symbolized the dance. Flanking the traditional masks of comedy and tragedy are the old time playwright’s tools – quill, ink-pot and parchment. At far right a lyre and cello represent music. To make the copper sculpture look “aged”, the copper was given a chemical treatment that produced an antique patina.
Born in Orillia, Ontario in 1903, Wood attended the Ontario College of Art (now the OCAD University). Wood graduated in 1925 after four years at the Ontario College of Art, where she studied drawing, painting, and stagecraft with Arthur Lismer, commercial design and calligraphy with J.E.H. MacDonald, and sculpture with Emanuel Hahn. In September 1926, following her post-graduate year at OCA, she and Emanuel Hahn married. Beginning in November of that year, she spent two months at New York’s Art Students League, studying with Robert Laurent and Edward McCarton. She was drawn to the art and design of ancient Egypt, whose simplicity and formalized nobility characterized all of Wood’s work.
“Sculptural form is not the imitation of natural form any more than poetry is the imitation of natural conversation . . . While a piece of sculpture may contain visual forms with which we are acquainted by daily experience, it is essentially a design worked out by means of the juxtaposition of masses in space, just as poetry is a design wrought by the sounds of words in time.” (Elizabeth Wyn Wood, 1935)
Wood explored the aesthetic properties and potential of different materials and techniques as they applied to sculpture. While she did explore landscape in her work, the human figure remained the basis for her work. Some of her public commissions include the Welland-Crowland War Memorial 1934-39, the King George VI Monument (Niagara Falls, 1955-61), and the Simcoe Monument (Niagara-on-the-Lake, 1951-53).
In 1928 Elizabeth Wyn Wood along with Frances Loring, Florence Wyle, Emanuel Hahn, Henri Hebert, and Alfred Laliberte founded the Sculptors Society of Canada. By bonding together they were able to focus on the development of sculpture while raising the profile of Canadian sculpture locally and internationally.
Elizabeth passed away in Toronto, Ontario in 1966.
Elizabeth Wyn Wood, 1929