William Ronald (1926-1998) was a Canadian abstract painter and a founder of the influential Canadian abstract art group Painters Eleven in 1954. He was a graduate of the Ontario College of Art (1951) who quickly found that abstract painters could not get their work exhibited in Torontogalleries. Since he had previously worked for theRobert Simpson Co.department store, he persuaded management to pair abstract paintings with furniture displays, thereby discovering a way to get the public to accept non-representational art.
Despite the success of that show,Abstracts at Home, Ronald resented the city's general attitude toward its artists and moved to the U.S., eventually becoming an American citizen. Ronald joined the stable of artists at Manhattan's Kootz Gallery where he was put on retainer.He was quickly accepted by critics, collectors, and artists such as Franz Kline, and enjoyed years of success in New York.
Eventually, Ronald returned to Toronto, as a landed immigrant in the country of his birth, partly due to changing market conditions and partly because he could not get along with Kootz.He was made a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
He gained some notoriety for his portrait series of Canadian Prime Ministers, a pioneering highly abstracted portrayal of heads of government opened by Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in Toronto. The exhibition toured Canada, despite warnings not to exhibit the less than flattering portrait of then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. They are currently part of the permanent collection of the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery in Kitchener, Ontario.
Never a stranger to criticism or polemics, Ronald loved to paint in public, frequently hiring strippers and showgirls to dance around him as he painted. He continued to paint until his death in 1998 and in fact suffered a heart attack while painting