Simcoe, On – November 8, 2017 The Cantelon Trail is a joint project between the Norfolk Arts Centre (NAC) and the Norfolk Historical Society (NHS) bringing together history and art, a sense of place and community. William Edgar Cantelon (1866-1950) devoted a great part of his life to painting the historical buildings, personalities, landscapes, and scenes of Norfolk County. Over 400 of Cantelon’s artworks are in the collection of the Eva Brook Donly Museum & Archives. These pieces visually reference Norfolk County’s history.


The Cantelon Trail brings together 5 project artists –Robert Achtemichuk (Kitchener), Gary Blundell and Victoria Ward (Gooderham) Sally Gable and Jim Jackson (Norfolk County) – to examine the collection of W.E. Cantelon paintings, drawings, and archives at EBD. These artists will present new work that responds to their individual research and contemplation of the paintings of William Edgar Cantelon.


Project artist Robert Achtemichuk states: “Edgar Cantelon documented places and people and his meticulous paintings give us a detailed visual history of Norfolk County.  I find an affinity with Cantelon’s paintings of the roadside houses and mills with trees. I like his picket fences. […]


This project gave me the opportunity to visit the famed Carolinian forests of Norfolk. I experienced the reforestation started by (Edmund) Zavitz in the last century. Trees were given to anyone who would plant and care for them. […] I painted a few of these older survivors as tree portraits, as individuals, and as groups, documenting the passage of time.


Gary Blundell and Victoria Ward conducted research on Cantelon during a two week-long residency in Norfolk County. Landscape painters interested in how industry and the landscape become interwoven – transforming and shaping human destiny, Blundell and Ward revisited many of Cantelon’s favourite locations to consider their present day state.


“Norfolk County is a landscape in a constant cycle of change. As a farming area, every season brings with it a different look to the land. But as a significant historical area full of shipwreck lore, bootlegging, war, deforestation and reforestation, it has tales to tell underneath overgrown hollows and shorelines. Striking to us was the incessant industrial presence; power plant on the lakeshore, wind turbines across the County. […]


The work we did for the exhibition truly centered on what we found. We visited many places where Cantelon set up his easel and painted. Most of these were bucolic waterways that had once been the location of a mill many, many generations ago. We looked around and saw what had become of Cantelon’s “places” in the 21st century. He seems to have been driven to document the area and to sell paintings.  Since our motivation was not remotely like his and far more intellectually distant (we were visitors, not inhabitants), we felt that we would need to cling to our way of doing things and fold them into the experience of being immersed in present day and historical Norfolk County. Ships, buildings, the alligator tug, patterned wetlands, and artifacts in museums became a ‘topology’; a network of anomalous things and places that fit into the narrative we walked through.”


Artists, Sally Gable and Jim Jackson grew up in Norfolk County experiencing the agricultural transformation of Cantelon’s Norfolk. Gable’s soft water colour sketches study the social intersections of churches, taverns, streets and shops which document the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth century in Simcoe, Vittoria and Port Dover. Unlike Cantelon’s scenes of prosaic buildings, Gable takes us into present day locations where people gather for prayer, friendship or commerce. Side by side, Cantelon’s images with Gable’s figurative studies describe the continuation of social rituals played out in public spaces. A self-taught artist, Jim Jackson paints from his immediate surroundings of farm, home and family. Unlike the stiff formal Cantelon portraits of wealthy landowners, military personnel or politicians, Jim’s portraits contrast with the privileged relationship between the portrait sitter or patron and the artist. Jim’s highly rendered portraits of relatives and labourers contrast with Cantelon’s portraits of Norfolk’s upper class.


Members of the Norfolk Photography Club will also present a series of photographs that documents Cantelon’s Norfolk as it exists today. Through this process the artists will follow in Cantelon’s footsteps, engaging in an exploration of Norfolk County’s past and present, and reflecting on the meaning of place.



The Norfolk Historical Society acknowledges the financial support of the Ontario Arts Council.


Robert Achtemichuk, Gary Blundell and Victoria Ward acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council through the Exhibition Assistance program.




For further information contact:

Deirdre Chisholm


Norfolk Arts Centre

21 Lynnwood Ave.

Simcoe, ON N3Y 2V7

(519) 428-0540


Andy Blackwood

President, Norfolk Historical Society

Eva Brook Donly Museum

109 Norfolk St S,

Simcoe ON N3Y 2W3

(519) 426-1583