“I knew I wanted to do things simply and intensely and as directly as possible, and I’ve never changed from that idea”. Born in Calgary, Alberta, in 1906, Maxwell Bates was a painter, architect, draughtsman, print maker, poet, writer and philosopher. Lauded as one of the founders of expressionism in Canada, Bates was a central figure in the Western Canadian art community as well as a nationally recognized modernist.
Finding opportunity and success from a young age, Bates worked for his father’s prominent architecture firm before moving to England in 1931. Once there, Bates continued to explore his artistic practice becoming a part of The Twenties Group, an association of prominent expressionists and surrealists, and exhibiting in numerous shows alongside innovators such as Kandinsky, Picasso and Matisse.
At the start of World War II Bates joined the British Territorial Army which saw him captured shortly after deployment in Dunkirk where he was placed in a prisoner of war camp in Thuringia, Germany, for five years. Though never explicitly commenting on his time held as a POW, Bates’ work began to reflect a more embodied emotional understanding and representation of the human condition.
In January 1946, Bates returned to Calgary to work for his father’s firm and would spend the next fifteen years working as both an artist and architect on a variety of projects from solo and group shows to the completion of St. Mary’s Cathedral, said to be one of his most notable achievements. Bates was a founding member of the Calgary Group and his works continue to be held in many prominent gallery’s such as the National Gallery of Canada, and Art Gallery of Ontario and the Tate Gallery in London. Bates was awarded the Order of Canada in 1980 before passing away later that year.