Anthony (Tony) J. Batten O.S.A., C.S.P.W.C., S.C.A., S.F.C.A.
A visual artist who has exhibited his drawings and paintings on four continents, Tony is possibly best known for his work which focuses on the man-made elements of our environment. His mastery of shading and texture within the interplay of light and dark makes his work immediately identifiable.
These paintings with which the viewing public can easily connect are often of familiar streetscapes and beloved landmarks but have a unique sense of colour and life. His streetscapes of his adopted home-town, Toronto, have been widely exhibited and are to be found in many civic and corporate collections.
Eynsham Hall – Oxfordshire, England 1940
Christ’s Hospital School, Horsham, Sussex, UK
McMasterville School, PQ
Museum School, Montreal (with Arthur Lismer)
L’Ecole des Beaux Arts, Montreal
Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University), Montreal
University of Toronto
While going to university, Tony made a number of career moves but it was while working for Canadian Industries Ltd (C-I-L) that he received corporate support for his interest in the history of the City of Montreal and his love of drawing its monuments. He was commissioned to produce a walking map of Old Montreal and its historic sites. This was in the days when only a handful of people actually lived in the decayed area and only a few homes had been restored. The map was widely reproduced in both official languages, and was tied in with C-I-L’s restoration of the DelVecchio House on Place Jacques Cartier and their participation in the World Fair – Expo ’67. C-I-L also used his drawings in a number of convention presentations and corporate promotions.
Due to his work in Old Montreal, in 1966 he was asked to sit on the advisory board of the Montreal Historical Society.
In the mid 1960’s Tony became a member of J.A.M.M. (The Junior Assoc. of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts – Le Musée des Beaux – Arts de Montréal), a group that ran a number of exhibitions and social activities from the Museum’s Stable Gallery. This began his life-long involvement with arts centered volunteer activities.
He moved to Ontario in 1968 to attend the University of Toronto and after graduation decided to try teaching for a few years. Those few years turned into twenty-eight!
He initially taught at Stephen Leacock C.I. which at the time was at the forefront of educational reappraisal. There he was a member of both the History and the Fine Arts departments. In the 1980’s he also lectured on art history with the CBC’s Institute of Scenography until that program was absorbed into Ryerson University. In 1985 he was appointed Head of Arts at Sir Oliver Mowat C.I.
In his spare time he worked on a number of theatrical productions primarily for Marlene Smith Productions. This was in the very early days of Toronto’s locally developed theatre and it introduced him into widely divergent design performance communities. He worked on a number of productions that became local theatrical legends including “Paif”, “Dames at Sea” and “Tonight at 8:30”. He also taught and demonstrated with the Royal Ontario Museum and with the University of Toronto. In the mid 1980’s he joined the Canadian School at Cambridge University (U.K.). where he was the resident art instructor and lecturer. With a small select staff that program became a fondly remembered highlight of Tony’s academic life. He left teaching in 1998 to pursue a career as a full time painter.
While he has regularly exhibited his work and been involved with the administration of a series of cultural organizations, it was his 1980 election to the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour (C.S.P.W.C.) that kick started a period of concentrated involvement in the arts. Coordinating a succession of highly profitable exhibitions that linked the C.S.P.W.C. with the National Ballet of Canada, he simultaneously ran the Society’s annual juried exhibitions for a number of years. Asked to take charge of their 1985 Diamond Jubilee celebrations, he managed to have their juried Jubilee Collection accepted into the fabled Royal Collection. The subsequent exhibition of those sixty Canadian watercolours in the Queen’s Gallery at Windsor Castle was a major coup for the country and the C.S.P.W.C.
Elected President of the C.S.P.W.C. for the period 1993-1995 he went on to organize Phase two of the Royal Collection Project that saw an additional fifteen works added at Windsor Castle to mark the Society’s seventy fifth anniversary in 2000. The paintings were exhibited at Canada House London in 2001 prior to moving to the Royal Library. Tony was invited by The High Commissioner to be guest speaker at the reception where HRH The Prince of Wales formally accepted the paintings on behalf of HM The Queen.
To mark the Society’s 2025 Centennial, the third and final phase of this ongoing Royal Collection Project will be the jurying and selection of twenty five further paintings that will thereby create a total body of one hundred Canadian watercolours held in perpetuity at Windsor Castle. This four decade long project has been one of the most significant undertakings of Tony’s career.
Roughly five years ago Batten unknowingly embarked on a major project when he made some inquiries relating to producing images of the architectural interiors of the Canadian Houses of Parliament. He was invited to Ottawa to discuss his concept and he was after a required vetting period given permission to proceed within the Commons area of the buildings. At that time he was informed that their research indicated he was possibly the first artist to ever be given such permission.
His work in the Commons was noticed by other governmental areas and he was subsequently invited to extend his project to both the Senate and the Parliamentary Library. In 2017 a number of his paintings entered the historic collections of the House of Commons and the Senate. Those works were each gifted by the artist to the Government of Canada to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation.
Early in 2018 The House of Commons approached the artist about acquiring further examples of his Parliament related work. An extensive twelve piece portfolio was eventually purchased. A.J. Batten is currently represented in that significant collection by a total of fifteen paintings.
Tony currently travels regularly both as an individual artist and as a member of the PORDS, a well known painting group. He is actively involved with a number of arts related organizations and is a popular participant in fund raising activities for several Canadian based charitable and not-for-profit groups.
Trusting that he will be able to continue to paint and draw for several more decades Tony has said “that looking back over the decades that have passed it is the events that I was drawn into as a volunteer that have illuminated my life experiences the most. It has been the totally unanticipated meeting with wonderful individuals, both unknown and acclaimed, that has provided some of the most searching moments of pause and reflection. I would encourage anyone to go outside of their own career paths and assist in some project with a different community …. the rewards for this “time well spent” can prove to be life changing.”
- The Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour, elected 1980 (President 1993-1995)
- The English Harbour Group (Newfoundland) 1991
- The Society of Canadian Artists, elected 1998
- The Federation of Canadian Artists (Signature Member 2002)
- Polar Artists Group, 2007
- Ontario Society of Artists, elected 2012
- The Arts & Letters Club, Toronto, since 1986
Listed in the “Canada’s Who’s Who” – University of Toronto Press.