Before entering the Food Building, have you ever noticed a group of fish flying in midair but no water to be seen? This lifelike bronze sculpture of five flying fish is the work of Canadian sculptor Jean Horne. In fact, there are two sets of these bronze fish, one at the west entrance and one at the south entrance of the Food Building. Originally, both sets of fish were part of a system of pools and waterfalls on the exterior of the Food Building. Jean Horne was commissioned to create the sculptures for the newly constructed Food Building in 1954.
Born Jean Mildred Harris September 19, 1914 in East York, Ontario, she grew up on Broadview Avenue in the part of Toronto known as The Danforth. Jean attended the Ontario College of Art (now the OCAD University) where she studied sculpture under Emanuel Hahn. While at the Ontario College of Art, Jean helped Hahn on the Adam Beck Memorial on University Avenue, and on a figurative memorial in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. She met her husband, Cleeve Horne, at the Ontario College of Art, and they were married on February 11, 1939. Cleeve was a renowned Canadian portrait artist and sculptor. They spent their time at their home on Balmoral Avenue in Toronto, at their country home in Pickering and at their cottage in Muskoka. The cottage was designed and built by Jean and Cleeve between 1938 and 1946. They created two studios in their Toronto home, a painting studio and sculpture studio.
Jean only created a few public works. The majority of her sculpture was done for private sale. She exhibited her work at the Royal Canadian Academy, Ontario Society of Artists, Sculpture Society of Canada, and the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario). Jean’s sculptures received mention in various newspaper articles over the years. Although Jean did not create many public pieces she did assist in quite a number of Cleeve’s commissioned sculptures: Alexander Graham Bell Memorial, Osgoode Hall War Memorial, Nova Scotia Coat of Arms, among others.
Jean was the first female artist in Canada to use steel welding in sculpture as a part of her body of work. In 1961 Jean’s steel sculpture entitled Beggar of Fez (1955) was shown at the CNE Art Gallery. In 1962 Jean was commissioned to create a sculpture for the new CIBC Bank in Montreal. Her steel sculpture entitled Conference, still stands in the main Banking Hall today.
Her artwork is represented at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston. Jean was also a member of the Toronto Arts and Letters Club, the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and the Ontario Society of Artists. Jean and Cleeve travelled extensively around the world visiting Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Australia, South America, Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean through numerous trips between the 1930s and 1970s. She was also an avid sailor winning numerous awards in competitions with her Aykroyd cedar strip sailboat.
Jean passed away at her home in Toronto on December 9, 2007.
Jean Horne at home in her studio, 1961 (courtesy of K. Lalonde)