Gada Jane

190-192 Oxford Street

London-born Paul Peel, who developed himself into one of Canada’s greatest 19th century painters, returned to London Ontario from Paris to be with his mother in her final illness. To obtain money for her care, he tried, unsuccessfully, to sell some of his paintings in London Ontario. Not a single painting sold.


Paul Peel, possibly Canada’s best known 19th century painter, began studying art in his teenage years while living in a house that once stood at 190-192 Oxford Street, directly across the street from this sign. In the following story, artist Gada Jane tells a story about her well-known cousin, Paul Peel.


Paul was intensely committed to becoming an artist from a very early age. He was seen as having great potential. He worked in his father’s studio, enlarging and reducing design. His father saw that he had a lot of ability and sent him to study with William Lee’s Judson who was a prominent local artist. Judson saw that Paul developed technically very quickly and wanted to see him grow in his creative vision. Paul was very committed to art. His parents were unable to support him financially but they were they had a strong faith in his ability and his capacity to become an artist. So there’s a lot of emotional support there.

At 16 Paul went against his parents wishes and without any family support went to study in Pennsylvania. He lived with his uncle and he studied art and he put himself through school selling paintings and teaching anatomy. He worked very hard there. He was introduced to French impressionism which had a great effect on his work and opened up new ways of seeing art and seeing what was possible with the paintbrush. From there he went to Toronto and began to eke out a living as an artist working in a studio on King Street and he was able to sell enough paintings in that period in Pennsylvania and Toronto to take himself to London to study at the Royal Academy.

He was deeply committed to being at the centre of the art world and taking himself as far as he could as an artist. He studied in London and then he went to Paris where he studied at the School of Fine Arts under a series of masters, notably Constant for five years. A number of years struggling as an artist working and developing as an artist he was able to win a bronze medal at the Salon of Society of the French Artists. And this was a great triumph for him. It was the moment that he entered properly the arts world.

Unfortunately shortly after that his mother got sick and he went back to Canada to take care of her, bringing with him a number of paintings and he tried to sell them. He couldn’t find a buyer in London. Nobody would buy his work at all he was able to find an auction house that could sell them in Toronto. But for a fraction of what they were worth and three days later his mother died and he went back to Paris a broken man.


If you would like to hear stories from the Great Talbot area walk north on the west side of Richmond Street until you reach Sydenham Street, cross Sydenham, and look for an orange Hear, Here sign just west of the corner of Sydenham and Richmond.