Frances Loring

Image details: Mother & Children, Relief Sculpture (Polystyrene), 1957 Located on the south façade of the Queen Elizabeth Building

In 1957, sculptor Frances Loring created a relief sculpture for the newly constructed women’s building, later named the Queen Elizabeth Building.  

The relief sculpture was cast in polystyrene, a relatively new plastic material at the time which proved to be more permanent and weather resistant than bronze.

Born in Wardner, Idaho in 1887, Frances Loring studied art in her native United States, as well as in many European cities, before settling in Canada in 1912. Her decision to move to Toronto was motivated, in part, by a desire to participate in the artistic development of a young country. Loring achieved this goal and many others throughout her illustrious career.

While at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1905, she met lifetime companion Florence Wyle, with whom she subsequently shared studios in New York (1909–1912) and Toronto (1912–1966).

Affectionately called "The Girls," Frances Loring and Florence Wyle were also known as the first women of Canadian sculpture. Spanning more than 50 years, their careers as sculptors have given Canadians a rich body of work that may be discovered and admired in many public spaces and galleries throughout the country.

By 1902, Loring was a member of both the Royal Canadian Academy and the Ontario Society of Artists. She was a founding member (1928) and subsequently president (1940s) of the Sculptors’ Society of Canada. Later she was involved in the organization of the Federation of Canadian Artists (1941) and the Canada Council (1950s).

Loring and Wyle's influence on Canadian art and artists has been significant. They challenged the establishment by setting forth to prove that sculpture was as important an art form as any other, and they succeeded amidst adverse conditions.

At the turn of the 20th century, sculpture in Canada was still very much considered a curiosity, rather than an admired art form. The lack of patrons, the serious shortage of foundries and the relatively high cost of materials were all factors contributing to an inauspicious environment for sculptors. In addition, these artists had to rely heavily on commissions as a source of revenue.

Influenced by her training in the neo-classical tradition and by her exposure to a newer vision epitomized by the French sculptor Auguste Rodin, Loring's work has a dynamic quality and a unique heroic style. She quickly became known as an outstanding architectural sculptor and was recognized for her numerous public monuments. One of her favourite works was The Queen Elizabeth Monument, originally located at the eastern entrance of the Queen Elizabeth Highway in Toronto (now located in Gzowski Park, Toronto). Loring's heroic style can also be admired in the many war memorials she designed following the First World War. Her last commissioned piece was a statue of former Canadian Prime Minister Robert Borden, erected on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa, in 1957.

Loring was devoted to her own work, but she was also concerned with the general plight and common problems of her colleagues. Together with Florence Wyle, she lobbied diligently for recognition and created a climate that made sculpture accessible for others.

Frances Loring died in Newmarket, Ontario in 1968.