History | William Edgar Cantelon | Obituary

William Edgar Cantelon was an outstanding painter of historical subjects, who devoted a great part of his life to painting buildings, personalities and scenes in Norfolk County.

These paintings now form the body of the Eva Brook Donly Museum�s large and unique collection of art pertaining to the county�s early history.

Cantelon was born in 1866 near Streetsville, Ontario, and started painting at an early age. He studied art in Chicago and came to Simcoe from Georgetown as a young man. He lived in Woodhouse Township, then maintained an art studio in Simcoe in later years.

He became curator of the Norfolk Historical Society in the late 1920s, a volunteer position he held for two decades. In no small measure, it was Cantelon that kept the Norfolk Historical Society alive during those years.

He and Henry Smith Johnson assembled the Society's first collections of historical relics, storing them first in the basement of the Simccoe Reformer and later in the basement of the Simcoe Public Library.

For many years, Cantelon rode his bicycle up and down the concessions of Norfolk County, gathering historical relics and painstakingly painting scenes which he felt should be preserved.

During the Depression, Mr. Cantelon began painting pioneer buildings, historical landmarks, and famous sons and daughters of Norfolk County, such as Egerton Ryerson and Abigail Becker.

The Ottawa Public Archives was anxious to purchase these historically valuable paintings, but Cantelon refused to let them to leave the community.

Simcoe native Guthrie Y. Barber of New York purchased some 40 of these paintings and presented them to the Norfolk Historical Society.

After another local artist, Eva Brook Donly, left her home to the Town of Simcoe to be used as a museum of art and antiques, NHS president Dr. Ralph Smith began a fund-raising campaign in the late 1940s to purchase the remaining Cantelon paintings.

Aided by a grant from the Norfolk County Council, this campaign raised $3,500 to partially compensate Cantelon for a magnificent collection of over 300 paintings. 

William Edgar Cantelon, 83, died on 3 Mar 1950, leaving a priceless legacy of historical paintings at the Eva Brook Donly Museum.

His studio has been recreated as an exhibit at the Museum. Our main Cantelon collection consists of 301 paintings. The Guthrie Y. Barber collection contains an additional 36 paintings.
This article by John Cardiff is based on a profile of Cantelon in Historical Highlights of Norfolk County by Bruce M. Pearce, that in turn was based on Cantelon's Simcoe Reformer obituary.


 Studio Exhibit  

Cantelon's obit

Guthrie Y. Barber

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