Hugh Cronyn (1905-1996)

Hugh Cronyn (1905-1996)


The French-Canadian Hugh Cronyn was born in Vancouver, Canada, in 1905. It was not until he started attending drawing evening classes whilst working for the Anglo-American Tea Co. In Toronto between 1923 and 1928 that he received any kind of training. It was this which led him to become a student of Franz Johnson, a Canadian painter and illustrator. In 1929 Cronyn had the opportunity to go to New York to study portrait painting at the Art Students’ League from which he would also gain the opportunity to study in Paris and visit most of Europe’s galleries, travelling both to Italy and Spain. By 1936 he exhibited his first one man show in Toronto in Canada. Cronyn’s ‘war years’ however were spent in England where he met painters such as Julian Trevelyn and Raymond Coxon, having established himself in Hammersmith village in London. In 1946 he became Director of Art at the Architectural Association School of Architecture up until 1949 when he became a teacher at the Colchester School of Art, the whole time receiving acclaim in Canada and holding one man shows both in Victoria and Montreal.


Cronyn often regretted not having the basic training that a traditional Art School would have offered, instead having to learn his trade the slower way through experience and interaction with other artists. However, the advantage to this is that one is able to seek out what they wish to know, organising their practice in a far more personal way. Thus Cronyn’s paintings often have a very tentative character, a consideration for the privacy of the situation and the interior nature of the piece stemming from own interactions with the environment, tending to find an intimacy between the subject and its environment. In Anna at Table one can see Cronyn’s concern for Anna’s state of contemplation, the stillness created through the Gauguin like flat surfaces and intense space create a highly charged atmosphere, reminiscent of symbolism.


  • 1936 One-man show, Toronto, Canada
  • 1948 One-man show, Victoria B.C., Canada
  • 1957 One-man show, Montreal, Canada
  • 1972 Retrospective exhibition, The Minories, Colchester, UK
  • 1972 Canada House, London, UK
  • 1996 Phoenix Gallery, Lavenham, Suffolk, UK
  • 1997 Phoenix Gallery, Lavenham, Suffolk, UK


Hugh Cronyn: A selection of Paintings 1932-72, Exhibition catalogue, The Minories, Colchester, 1972

Hugh Cronyn information file, National Art Library, Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Harriet Pratt