Lowrie Warrener and Emmanuel Hahn, 1924, Ontario College of Art Photo Credit:  Succession Elizabeth Wyn Wood and Emanuel Hahn.

Lowrie Warrener and Emmanuel Hahn, 1924, Ontario College of Art
Photo Credit:  Succession Elizabeth Wyn Wood and Emanuel Hahn.

Lowrie Warrener, 1900 - 1983

Lowrie Lyle Warrener was born in Sarnia, Ontario in 1900. Legend has it that he was inspired to start painting after he met Group of Seven painter Arthur Lismer at a 1920 exhibition hosted by the Sarnia Women’s Conservation Committee at the Sarnia Carnegie Library. A year after the exhibition, Warrener left for Toronto’s Ontario College of Art to study sculpting and learn to paint. After graduation, in 1924 he and George Pepper took a trip to Europe together. He would also do painting trips with contemporary painter, Carl Schaefer.

Warrener is always toted as a protégé of the Group of Seven, and both Lawren Harris and Arthur Lismer described Warrener as the first Canadian abstractionist. Looking at Warrener’s woodcuts between 1925 and 1980, you can see the shapes in his imagery become increasingly bold and abstract. Many of Warrener’s linocuts were created for Christmas Cards.

In 1925, Warrener returned to Sarnia and started working to finance sketching trips up north with other emerging artists. On 1926, Warrener had an exhibition of his own at the Sarnia Carnegie Library and sold 25 paintings, a huge success for the artist.

He went on to exhibit three of his paintings in 1928 with the The Canadian Society of Graphic Art, and then fell away from the exhibition circuit. It seems in 1930, he gave up fine art and moved to Toronto to concentrate on theatre design. 

He was successful in producing innovative stage designs and even wrote an avant-garde drama, “Symphony: A Drama of Motion and Light For a New Theatre” with dramatist Herman Voaden. Voaden and Warrener wrote Symphony during a two-month trans-Canada train journey from Northern Ontario to British Columbia in the summer of 1930.

Warrener died in Toronto on February 8th, 1983.

Selected Collections
Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery, Sarnia, ON
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON
McMichael Gallery, Kleinburg, ON
The Feckless Collection, Vancouver, BC