Charles Pachter: “How I Learned to Survive and Thrive as a Contemporary Canadian Artist” (Spring 2024 Talk #1 Summary)

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Charles Pachter

Charles said he hates the words “awesome” and “iconic.” I won’t use awesome but he is a Canadian icon, an “enfant terrible” when younger and Canada’s Andy Warhol with his “iconic” moose art. See “Monarch of the North” above. Charles painted a picture of Queen Elizabeth on mooseback that became famous and controversial overnight (Queen on Moose 1972) and he has been painting moose ever since. In the picture above, that’s Charles as a 4-year-old touching the nose of a moose at the CNE in 1947. As Canada’s moose artist, he did weigh in on Toronto’s Moose in the City project of 2000. “It looked like a horse.” He didn’t like it.

Charles Pachter

Charles talked to us while seated to view his presentation slides, not a bad idea since we felt as if we were in his living room. He entertained us for an hour with a recap of his career, some great images (of the thousands he has produced) and some shots of the five to six art studios and 20 buildings that he refurbished and resold, including the Gracie Restaurant in Toronto. Today he has two spectacular studios/residences, one in downtown Toronto, one in Orillia, with adjacent Moose Factory studios (he invited us to visit).

Charles is a very engaging raconteur and related many of his encounters with the famous and others in the art world from the mid ’50s until the present.

Charles’ first break came when, as a starving  artist, he sold a painting to Albert Reichmann of Olympia and York, the developers of First Canadian Place. He said it is still hanging there. If you want to see an accessible Charles Pachter, it is the Hockey Knights In Canada/Les Rois de l’Arene murals in the College St. subway station, which have been on display since April 1985. Nine Maple Leafs players stare across the tracks at nine Montreal Canadiens under one of hockey’s greatest shrines, the Maple Leaf Gardens.

Charles Pachter Art man and boy

Charles counts Margret Atwood as his best friend. Their association goes back to 1959 when they met at Camp White Pine where Pachter taught art and Atwood revelled in nature. Over time, Pachter illustrated six of Atwood’s poetry collections. The most famous was The Journals of Susanna Moodie, published in 1970. Charles showed us a slide of his illustration side by side with Atwood’s poem. It was extremely impressive.

Charles Pachter art Moose

Charles’ art has been published in several books, all out of print. You could probably purchase a painting only at an auction. His pictures hang in galleries and embassies around the world but not yet in the National Gallery of Canada, which he regrets. I am sure it is not because Charles’ grade school teacher gave him a D in art.

by Ron Miller