Pachter's Canada

Yvonne Palkowski
Magazine Section: 

We sit down with the artist whose images have become synonymous with our home and native land


How things have changed. In 1972, the art world collectively gasped at the sight of the Queen sitting on a moose, as irreverently depicted in a series of paintings by the artist Charles Pachter (BA 1964 UC). These days, his signature images of the maple leaf, mounties—and yes, the Queen and moose—have become pop icons of Canadiana, even finding their way onto a line of accessories sold nationwide at The Bay.  Paintings, sculptures, prints, and designs by the prolific Pachter are displayed in collections around the world (the painting that graces the cover of this issue hangs in the High Commission of Canada in London, United Kingdom), and he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2012.  He spoke with UC Magazine editor Yvonne Palkowski about his legendary body of work and career.


You studied art history while at University College, but how did you get started as an artist?

I started drawing and painting in early childhood, and have never stopped.


What would you say are the main themes in your art?

I try to examine and enlarge upon life as I know it based on my own time and place in the world.


Why do you think your signature subjects—moose, mounties, maple leaf, and the Queen—have such resonance?

I call these my branded images for Canada. I enjoy exploring the Canadian psyche based on the fact that our main tourist symbol is a policeman.  Our head of state lives in another country. The moose is the true monarch of the north.  And our flag is beautiful.


You met the Queen a few years back. How did that conversation go?

We met at the opening of the newly renovated Canada House in London. I said, "Your Majesty, 43 years ago I painted you as the Queen of Canada seated side-saddle on a moose, and thanks to you I have made a living all these years." She beamed and said, "How amusing!" 


How have Canadian art and the nation’s art scene evolved throughout your career?

The internet has changed everything. Everyone who has an iPhone is a photographer. And everyone on Facebook and Twitter who makes and posts their art is "awesome" and their work is "iconic." 


Does that make things easier or harder for up-and-coming artists?

The challenges for emerging artists and established artists are pretty much the same: how to become recognized and respected, and make a decent living from your work.


Where do you see Canadian art going in the future? 

I see more prominence on the world stage. In the last decade there has been much more international interest in Canadian art. 


What is your proudest accomplishment?  

Staying productive.


What are you working on now?

Currently working on a commissioned portrait—top secret. And Dundurn Press is publishing a book, Charles Pachter: Canada’s Artist, on my life and work, coming out in June.


How will you recognize Canada’s 150th?  

With many activities and events in 2017, including solo exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Windsor and the Peel Art Museum & Archives in Brampton. Also with the completion of a new, contemporary home in Orillia on the historic street where Group of Seven artist Franklin Carmichael grew up.