J.W. (Bill) Beatty

J.W. (Bill) Beatty is another Studio Building occupant and a good friend of mine. He’s good chums with Lawren Harris and Jim MacDonald, and we all share the interest of the North. Bill is an avid outdoorsman and was quite an adventurer before he settled down as an artist in the Studio Building. A house painter, a regimental bugler, and a fireman were his preceding careers. He’s  known for his bravado and stunts – like sliding upside down on a firepole – with a man on his back.

Like many of the artists (and unlike me) he studied in Europe. After coming back in 1909 he made trips with Lawren in the Haliburton Highlands. Before they moved to the Studio Building, Bill shared a studio with Jim MacDonald on Adelaide Street and that’s where I first met Dr. MacCallum. After my return from the Mississagi, I brought along some of my sketches to show Jim and Bill. They were in rough shape, because our canoe dumped and I had to fish them out of the water. Much to my surprise, Dr. MacCallum took an interest to my boards saying that I had captured the grim fascination of the North. I didn’t think they were any good, but the Dr. saw something in them.

Alex Jackson didn’t like Bill. They travelled together to the Rockies in the summer of 1914. When we were together in Algonquin Park in the fall of 1914, Alex confided in me that he found Bill to be a conventional and uninspired sort of chap. “He couldn’t keep up with me walking up a hill!” Alex told me. Alex also told me that he was disgusted with Bill’s fascination with erotic nymphs painted by the French painter, Bouguereau. I didn’t reply to that revelation made by Alex, because I didn’t mind the nymphs myself. Bill showed his pictures to me numerous times.


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