Self-Portrait, 1990. Oil on canvas
Born in Stratford, Ontario in 1916, Stapleton found his métier at age twenty while working on a survey crew in Northern Ontario. Having decided to become a professional artist and designer, he studied at the National Academy of Design and the Works Progress Administration school in New York, the Slade School of Art, London, and the Ontario College of Art, Toronto. But life, he insists, has always been his real teacher. His media vary from oils, acrylics and watercolours, to pastel, conté, charcoal, pen-and-ink and ink-wash: his message is the strong, unabashedly partisan empathy of the figurative compositions he calls "humanscapes."
Ever since witnessing the violently suppressed labour strike that took place in his home town in September 1933, he has been committed to using his art as a "tool and weapon" for the benefit of the powerless and the denunciation of the powerful. His sense of solidarity with the victims of political and economic oppression has led him to portray them and their causes through studio paintings, on-site sketches and drawings posters and film. Similarly, his first-hand exposure to the terrors of modern warfare, while serving overseas with the RCAF during World War II, affirmed his commitment to the fight against militarism and imperialisma commitment that continued through his membership in such organizations as Veterans Against Nuclear Arms, Artnica (Artists for Nicaragua) and Arts for Peace, which he co-founded in 1982.
People In Struggle: The Life and Art of Bill Stapleton (Author)