The Arts Frank Panabaker used his considerable drive, energy and talent to become a prominent and successful artist. A younger contemporary of the famed Group of Seven, Panabaker painted portraits, landscapes, and still life. Most of his landscapes were of Southern Ontario, Georgian Bay, Haliburton, Muskoka, and Algonquin Park.He lived in Ancaster and many of his subjects were local scenes in and around Ancaster, the Dundas Valley, and Hamilton.
Frank Shirley Panabaker was born in Hespeler in 1904. When Frank was 16, the artist (and later friend) Mc Gillivray Knowles arrived in town to teach a sketching class. Knowing of his son’s interest and talent in drawing, Frank’s father suggested that he might like to join the class. This was the beginning of his long and prolific career.
Frank attended Galt Collegiate Institute (GCI) where he was the valedictorian of the 1921 graduating class. Here minisced about his years at GCI in his autobiographical book Reflected Lights. In that book he describes the time he and a friend went duck hunting during their lunch break. Frank and his friend “borrowed” two .22 caliber rifles from the cadet stores in the basement and loaded the min to a canoe. While on the river they successfully shot two ducks. The principal, impressed with their skill, allowed the boys to leave the ducks in his office for the rest of the day.
Frank’s first professional show was at the Preston Springs Hotel in 1927. From that time, he was one of the few fully self-supporting professional artists in Canada. Even through the difficult Depression years, he managed to make a living with the help of private patrons. Sara Delano Roosevelt purchased a Panabaker painting for her father, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and it hung in the White House for many years. A Panabaker landscape of the Temagami area hangs in the Principal’s office at GCI.
Frank was an Associate of the Royal Canadian Academy, a member of the Allied Artists of America, and a member of the board of trustees for the National Gallery in Ottawa. He studied at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, and continued his studies at the Grand Central School of Art in New York. Frank painted up to the last week of his life, dying in his 88th year, in 1992. In 1996 he was inducted into the Hamilton Gallery of Distinction. It might surprise the modest artist from Hespeler, who referred to himself as “the Group of One”, to know that his works today are sought-after pieces in Canada’s auction houses, fetching ever higher prices.
Years at Galt Collegiate Institute (GCI) & VS:1917 – 1922