Biography and Tribute                   February 14, 1920 - March 4, 2007

    June Selznick Drutz, a painter and printmaker, was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy, the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour, and the Ontario Society of Artists.

    Her most recent solo exhibitions were in 2005 at the Art Gallery of Mississauga and the Bainton Gallery in Blyth, Ontario. In addition to many solo exhibitions, her work has been exhibited extensively in a group show context including the joint exhibitions of the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour, the American Watercolor Society, and the Royal Watercolour Society of Britain.

    Her work is represented in numerous private and corporate collections in Canada, the U.S. and Britain, including: Bell Canada, CitiBank, Deloitte Touche, First National Bank, Hudson's Bay Company, Seagram and Sons, McMaster University, University of Guelph, Midwest Museum of America, and the Royal Canadian Academy Archives at the National Gallery in Ottawa.

    As a student at the Ontario College of Art from 1961-1965, she was awarded the G.A. Reid Memorial Award, the Dorothy L. Stevens Scholarship, the Women's Art Institute Scholarship, and the Medal of France for Painting. Throughout her career she has continued to receive numerous awards. She has twice been awarded the AJ. Casson Medal of the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour and has received the CSPWC Honour Award four times.

    Her work has been featured in the spring 1999 issue, the autumn 1999 issue, and the June 2001 special issue of Watercolor Magic magazine.

    June Drutz taught at the Ontario College of Art for almost two decades. She lived in Toronto her entire life, and died there in March of 2007.


    June Selznick was born on Valentines Day, February 14, 1920 in Toronto. Her parents immigrated to Canada via New York City, from Russia, and she was the youngest of ten children. June’s home where she grew up was on Bellwoods Avenue, near Bathurst and Queen St. W. June married her beloved husband “Danny” on July 27, 1939 and together they raised two daughters, Nora and Dinah Drutz.

    June’s first art teacher was Doris McCarthy, whom she met as a teen when she won a scholarship to take art lessons at the Art Gallery of Ontario. She attended the Ontario College of Art years later when she was 41 and she graduated with honours in 1965. As a student she was awarded the G.A.Reid Memorial Award, the Dorothy L.Stevens Scholarship, the Women’s Art Institute Scholarship, and the Medal of France for Painting. During the summers she taught art to the women at the reformatory to earn the money for her tuition. Her work includes many prints often very dark and brooding in nature, which were done just after this time.

    June Selznick Drutz was a painter and a printmaker, and an excellent draftswoman. She was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy, of the Ontario Society of Artists, and a Life Member of the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour. She received numerous awards during her life: twice she was awarded the A.J.Casson Medal of the CSPWC, and she received its predecessor, the CSPWC Honour Award, four times.

    June has had many solo exhibitions throughout her career, most recently in 2000 when a retrospective of her work was held at Circle Arts Gallery in Tobermory, Ontario; in 2005 at the Art Gallery of Mississauga; and also in 2005 at the Bainton Gallery in Blyth, Ontario. Her work has been exhibited in group shows at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and internationally in Mexico, the United States, England and Scotland. The group shows she has been part of in Canada are far too numerous to mention, but as an indication, June had her paintings chosen for at least 19 Open Juried Exhibitions of the CSPWC.

    She has left a large body of work and Canadian painters will remember her unique style and colour sense for many years to come. There are many prints, watercolours, and large canvases done with pigment in medium.

    There are a variety of egg tempera paintings, drawings and studies, all of which shine with June’s own particular rare and beautiful style.

    June developed three major series in her lifetime. These can be loosely described as the “Maidens” series, the “Walls” series and the “Interiors” series. She created the “Interiors” series last.

    Her memories of the immigrant homes crammed with unique furniture, chairs with compartments in the arms for holding the liquor bottles, full of many colourful fabrics, have influenced her large body of what she referred to as the “Interior series”. These are expressed both in watercolours and prints.

    June dedicated many hours to the CSPWC and often volunteered her time helping with the administration of this important organization. June was a member of the jury for the Annual Open Juried Exhibition, and other juries when called upon. She attended every AGM until her failing health prevented it. June took a keen interest in all the issues, understanding the necessity for slides, and later digital imaging for submission for membership and exhibitions. While comprehending the need for new technology, she regretted the jury’s loss of actually experiencing the real painting, receiving the full impact of the size, and savouring the beautiful happenings of the watercolour, which are often missing in the slide and digital reproductions.

    June believed in the CSPWC and its goal of focusing on watercolour painting, to be viewed standing alone, not amidst works on canvas of oil and other media. She felt that what defined watercolour painting is the use of traditional watercolour and gouache paints that are soluble in water, even after drying, (unlike acrylic paint). She felt that graphite, pastel and inks had always been permitted if the painting was predominantly watercolour, and most importantly, if they were well integrated so that it was a good painting. June was a liberal thinker.

    June was not only a great artist but also an exceptional teacher. She was a testimony to the inaccuracy of the well-known statement that “those who can’t do, teach ….” She taught at the Toronto School of Art in the seventies, and then at the Ontario College of Art for nearly two decades. Neville Clarke, Ed Shawcross, Martha West Gayford, Robin Hesse, Barbara Sunderland, Eleanor Besen, Irene Kott were some of her best students. They made art their life’s work, and also became members of the CSPWC.

    Neville Clarke in relating his memories of what a fantastic teacher June was remembers how she pointed out the successful parts of his work showing him how poetic they were. June was full of encouragement, and as Barbara Sunderland recounted she was sympathetic to the student’s struggles. Ed Shawcross remembers June saying, “ The painting will talk to you. Set it down in a place that you will come across and be surprised by it. The painting will speak to you and tell you what it needs and then you can act accordingly.”

    Everyone who was a student at OCA during these years will recall that many times there would be easily 30 students sprawled at her feet, drinking in every word, while June held up books of wondrous artists, new to many of these fledglings. There were books on Pascin, Stanley Spenser, George Grosz, De Segonzac.

    June would show how the artist used an overlap here to bring the forehead forward, a drift there to move the shoulder back in space, how they painted the air. All this knowledge would be interspersed with tales of many mistress all living together, or of how Stanley Spenser coped with a small working space, by painting to completion one part of his canvas and then rolling that up and continuing on the next part he was able to unroll, somehow maintaining the full vision in his head.

    With all this in mind, I would like to plant the idea that a book should be written perpetuating the memory of June Selznick Drutz. This should include many reproductions of her work, inspiring and educating the artists of the future

    The work of June Selznick Drutz was wonderful to see and enjoy, and to use her own words, she would “knock your socks off “ time after time…June was an inspiration to everyone, both in life and in art. How privileged we all are to have known this strong but gentle, kind, sensitive and beautiful artist, who made the world a better place to live in. Her paintings, prints and drawings will continue to enrich the lives of generations to come.

    Tribute written by: Martha Gayford