The local Duke of Connaught school has three E.B. Cox (1914-2003) sculptures circa 1960 embedded in it’s facade. They are stone carvings representing, rather predictably, the three Rs. Top is Reading (see the books?) Then wRiting (ABC) and ‘Rithmetic (E=MC²).
Cox was a Toronto sculptor with an international reputation who was sort
of adopted by the Group of Seven as “their” sculptor. He had a studio on Broadview Avenue.
I like these carvings, even though they are stuck onto the brick wall like so many postage stamps and contribute nothing to the architectural form, which is itself, merely functional. I assume that the commission was a make-work project to support and recognize the sculptor. Nothing wrong with that. Given a fairly humdrum assignment, Cox has done a nice job, carving sensitive faces and hands in particular. His style attempts to jump back in time, leaping over centuries of European art history, back to simpler, archaic forms.
The first half of the 20th century saw Canada struggling to find it’s place in the world of art. It was still a time when nationalism seemed important and there was a yearning for a distinctly “Canadian” style, independent of European standards that defined the colonial Dominion. Cox looks to have been part of that searching, on the one hand seeking “sincere”, primitive forms and on the other, rendering them in stone with pneumatic chisels. Something old, something new, something borrowed…
I saved the bottom-most sculpture for a last close-up, after the break …
As you see, being lowest on the wall puts the ‘Rithmetic piece within reach of indignities. Recently, the head seems to have been a perch for a pumpkin. Worse, the nose has probably fallen to a thrown rock.