This quaint village that once served as his artistic inspiration will soon play host to the life and work of the late John Mattar. He lost his battle with lung cancer in 2006 but his story lives on in the paintings you can discover at an exhibit hosted by his family April 26, from 1 to 5pm at the Eden Mills community centre.
The story of the man behind the brush is just as rich as his colourful paintings and as detailed as his sketches.
Mattar was born in Haifa, Palestine in 1935 where his father, Solomon, was the manager of Barclay’s Bank. In 1948, political unrest forced the Mattar family, now with seven children, to leave suddenly on foot, escaping to Jerusalem. John Mattar, was in his teens and it would be a fortuitous event in Mattar’s life. The family was given refuge in a monastery in Bethany for a short time and that is where the nuns taught him to paint icons. He would later illustrate a book on Middle Eastern Church icons.
Word eventually came that a friend left keys to her house on Mount of Olives. When the family arrived they found the once beautiful house had been looted and stripped bare. One Easter, Solomon went to the Garden Tomb to worship and heard that the Warden was leaving. He applied for this position and was accepted as the first Arab Warden of the Garden Tomb in 1952. For their safety, one by one the children left Jerusalem to go to school in America. In 1967, Solomon was killed at the gate of the Tomb and his wife came to America.
John Mattar moved to Canada, in 1957. He would graduate from the Ontario College of Art with honours and acknowledged with awards. It is there he won a medal for Proficiency in Drawing and Painting as well as a travel scholarship.
In 1967, he was invited to exhibit in the Sir John A. Macdonald Centennial Show at the Art Gallery of Ontario. This show later toured major Canadian cities and was displayed at Habitat in Montreal. John won two purchase awards from the Alberta College of Arts and many other prizes. He served on the jury of both national and international print shows, achieved membership in the Ontario Society of Artists and was also a member of the Watercolour and Print Societies.
His work was exhibited in Toronto at the Sisler Gallery, at Erindale College of the University of Toronto, in Calgary, Seattle and locally at The Painting on The Green, in Elora, and in Georgetown at the Gallery House Sol. He won acclaim for engravings, and watercolours as well as other media.
Mattar would share his passion for art by pursuing an extensive teaching career. He was a technical assistant in the Print Department of the Ontario College of Art, where he also taught drawing and painting. He instructed at Guelph Collegiate Vocational institute, Conestoga Collage, South Hampton School of Art and at many workshops. He was selected by the Brantford Art League to prepare a limited edition print for exclusive sale at Glenhurst Art Gallery.
During the 1970s, Mattar had a television show called Try It where the main topic was portrait painting. He was most prolific drawing portraits. He constantly sketched people whenever he was sitting and waiting.
Mattar was sometimes described as a super realistic painter and his work was highly detailed. He drew the wildflowers in the fields, horses at fall fairs, crumbling barns and stone walls – much of which was inspired by the sites from Wellington County, most commonly Elora and the home of his studio – Eden Mills.
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