Caven Atkins in his studio, 1928. Photo courtesy of the Ingram Art News, September 2012.

Caven Atkins in his studio, 1928.
Photo courtesy of the Ingram Art News, September 2012.

Earnest Caven Atkins, 1907-2000

Ernest Caven Atkins was born in London, Ontario in 1907 and raised in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. From 1925 to 1928 he studied under L. L. FitzGerald at the Winnipeg School of Art, he would later instruct at this school (1930-1934) and the University of Toronto, (1940-1945).

After graduation, Atkins took a job at Brigden’s commercial art firm, there he met many local artists including Bertram Brooker and Charles Comfort.  Atkins became close friends with Fritz Brandtner, who introduced him to the German expressionist influences of Max Beckman, George Grosz and Otto Dix. 

Upon the outbreak of World War II, to Atkins' surprise, he was not offered a war artist appointment along with his contemporaries Charles Schaefer and Charles Goldhamer. Instead, he completed a series of paintings and drawings at the Toronto Shipbuilding Company and donated 24 works on paper and one large canvas, Men at Work, Factory Interior, to the National Gallery of Canada. They are now displayed in the Canadian War Museum as part of the war art collection.

In post-war 1945, Atkins found it hard to find employment. This led him to move to Birmingham, Michigan, where he worked as an illustrator and designer for the Ford company until his retirement. However, he never returned to Canada, and as a result he is not well known north of the border, despite making significant contributions to the Canadian War catalogue. Atkins died in Michigan in December of 2000, just shy of his 93rd birthday. 


1941-1943 Canadian Society of Graphic Art; President 

1941-1943 Canadian Group of Painters

1943-1945 Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour;   President  

1944-1945 Ontario Association of Teachers of Art

Selected Collections
Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, ON
Ingram Gallery, Toronto, ON
The Feckless Collection, Vancouver, BC