In the summer of 1951, following his Ontario College of Art graduation, William Ronald stumbled into a New York City that was imbued with Cold War politics and rebellious post-war aesthetics. American abstract artists of the time, having witnessed their mentors’ artwork used for government and corporate propaganda, sought to create paintings that were unquestionably their own. Ronald’s bold and experimental energy fit right into this environment.
Untitled (1952), with its earthy tones, makes the viewer recall the autumnal light, possibly an allusion to Ronald’s travels between Toronto and New York City. The painting highlights his diverse influences, referencing synthetic cubism in its angular forms and muted palette, and its vertical orientation a subtle nod to Abstract Expressionist neighbours Barnett Newman and Clyfford Still.
Upon returning to Canada in the fall of 1951, Ronald found that his experimental abstracts resonated with a small yet vital band of artists who were to become Painters Eleven. In 1952, Ronald exhibited alongside Jack Bush, Jock MacDonald and others in the Canadian Abstract Exhibition (Toronto), but he found the Canadian audience to be unprepared for his abstract style. Shortly thereafter, he moved back to New York City, where he immersed himself in the world of Abstract Expressionism.