Markle, Robert (1936-1990)

Robert Markle was born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1936. His origin was Ontario Mohawk, but he never wanted to be associated as a native artist. In 1954, he studied at the Ontario College of Art where his originality was seen from the start. A furious rant, that is still unknown to how it began, would expel Robert from the school. Fortunately while attending OCA he was able to meet Marlene, his future wife and muse, and his inspiration for the female form would grow.

He began exhibiting in many group shows and would later get an important break in his one-man show at the Isaacs Gallery in 1963. The controversial exhibition ‘Eros 65’ at the Dorothy Cameron Gallery would boost Robert’s reputation as an artist. After being raided for ‘obscene’ pieces, it would spark the debate over censorship in Canada.

After leaving a strong impression on the Toronto arts scene, he moved to Holstein where he would continue his work. Robert focused on the female nude which was transformed over the years. Whether studying a single pose or capturing the allure of the dancer’s movement, Markle was unafraid to try something new.

He was also a writer, teacher, and jazz musician. He played the saxophone in the Artists’ Jazz Band with fellow artists Graham Coughtry, Gordon Rayner, Nabuo Kubota and Michael Snow. Markle wrote many articles for magazines and newspapers such as Maclean’s, Toronto Life, The Star and Globe and Mail. Robert was also a teacher from 1966 to 1977. He taught at the New School of Art, the Ontario College of Art and the University of Guelph. Robert was fond of teaching and enjoyed the conversations and engagement with the students.

After a serious motorcycle crash in 1970, Robert was left with the difficult process of restoring the use of his hands. Using the only tool that he could grasp, a big shaving brush became his outlet to paint again. These works that he created are extremely expressionistic and would begin the investigation of curves, shadows and movements of the female figure.

He would continue to push the boundaries by accentuating the deep contrast and build the relationships between his models and muse. Markle also used sculptures to showcase the diversity of his techniques. Whether through the whirligigs or the large installation pieces and murals, Markle was able to explore the range of his Mohawk background, the landscape and female figure into one.

Robert Markle’s life would be cut short after an accident in July, 1990. His last series consisted of monoprints that showed some early techniques of layering, but are also less densely filled. This last series shows how Robert was still investigating his subjects while placing himself within the imagery. Even until his last day, Markle continued to pursue every possible angle and depict what he was truly passionate about.

Contact the Gallery for additional Markle works not shown here.