Toronto Through My Lens

Tag: UofT

Cherry Blossoms

You know it’s springtime in Toronto when the cherry blossoms suddenly pop out for their all-too-brief stay.

In Japan, flower viewing is an age-old tradition called hanami. Called sakura in Japan, the cherry blossom trees bloom in Toronto at the end of April to early May. When they bloom the trees look quite stunning, displaying their delicate, fluffy, pink and white flowers.

The first Japanese cherry tree was planted here in 1959; it was a present from the citizens of Tokyo. In High Park, 34 cherry trees were received from the Sakura project. Other cherry trees were also donated to other locations around the city, including Exhibition Place, York University and U of T.

I wasn’t up this year for the full-on urban battle that is High Park cherry blossom viewing, so I opted for a couple of alternate locations which offered a calmer, quieter experience:

103 Maitland Street

Robarts Library, University of Toronto

Trinity College, University of Toronto


On the St. Michael’s College campus of University of Toronto, there resides a bronze sculpture entitled Neighbours. Created by artist Joe Rosenthal, the piece was installed in 2001.

Two figures lean on opposite sides of a railing with their gaze just past one another. They lean together while waiting for something, possibly speaking softly to each other while passing the time. Their facial expressions are parallel in somber intensity.

Their body language differs subtly. One figure leans forward expectantly, almost hopefully, as if they can see what is to come. The other leans with patient resolve.

In this sculpture, Joe Rosenthal has provided an excellent example in composition. The two figures are placed in an equal yet opposite position. This guides the viewers’ gaze back and forth between the two dramatically.

Joe Rosenthal, the sculpture’s artist, was born in Romania in 1921. He came to Canada in 1927 and served in the Canadian Armed Forces from 1942-1945. He studied at the Ontario College of Art and continued his learning on extensive sketching trips through the Northwest Territories, Mexico, Cuba, England, Holland, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Jordan, Israel, and Egypt.

His work has been recognized with awards from the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Canada Council, and the Toronto Outdoor Exhibition. He is a member of the Royal Canadian Academy and the Ontario Society of Arts.

Then, a year later, one of the gals scored a little accoutrement

There’s nothing like a good, gossipy catch-up with a friend

Northrop Frye Statue at Victoria College

For more than half a century, renowned literary critic Northrop Frye made Victoria College at the University of Toronto his intellectual home: he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy, taught English to students from 1939 to 1991, and wrote such influential works as Fearful Symmetry and Anatomy of Criticism. This bronze sculpture – located near Northrop Frye Hall on the Victoria College campus – shows the esteemed professor in a state of contentment, surrounded by beloved books.

The life-size statue was created by artists Darren Byers and Fred Harrison. The figure is a modified version of a sculpture in Frye’s hometown of Moncton, New Brunswick.

The artists adapted the statue so it reflected Frye’s time at U of T and in Toronto: among his stack of books is a class planner, and in his right hand is his wife Helen Kemp Frye’s sketch of a party. The book he holds contains images of an angel, the Leviathan and the divine creator, which allude to his religious background and to poet William Blake – whose work is the focus of Fearful Symmetry.


The sculpture Michael is located at St. Michael’s College quadrangle at Queen’s Park Crescent East. Michael was commissioned by the Collegium in 1977 in commemoration of the 125th Anniversary of the Foundation of St. Michael’s College. The sculpture, by artist Anne Allardyce, was completed in 1978, using stainless steel and granite.

Michael stands as a monument to Saint Michael – the namesake of the college. It may be slightly difficult, though, to make out Saint Michael from such an abstract form. At best, with the help of your imagination, you may see hints of wings and clothing in the triangular metal sheets. At the very least the statute is imposing and evokes a sense of grandeur.


Outside the Kelly Library, St. Michael’s College (U of T) at 113 St. Joseph Street, resides Untitled by sculptor William McElcheran.

This bronze sculpture was installed on June 6, 1973 as a plastic piece before being bronzed a few years later; it was sent to Italy for that process.

This is a 2-sided sculpture: the street side shows a crowd of people, many clinging to the others, while the library-facing side shows historical figures involved in intellectual discussions.

The Street-Facing Side (crowd)

The Library-Facing Side (historical figures)

McElcheran deliberately included the faces of many contemporary and ancient scholars and teachers on this side of the sculpture. Some of these individuals, such as Einstein or Gandhi, are easy to make out. From left to right, you can see the following figures:

James Joyce
Stephen Leacock
T. S. Eliot
Geoffrey Chaucer
Marshall McLuhan
Dante Alighieri
Germaine de Staël
George Bernard Shaw
George Sand
Leo Tolstoy
William Shakespeare
Sigmund Freud
Jean-Paul Sartre
Rene Descartes
Etienne Gilson
Søren Kierkegaard

Georg Hegel
Immanuel Kant
Eugène Ionescu
Jacques Maritain
St. Thomas Aquinas
Sir Isaac Newton
St. Theresa of Avila
St. Augustine
Albert Einsten
Eldridge Cleaver
John Henry Newman
Barbara Ward
Karl Marx
Charles Darwin
Mahatma Gandhi
Herman Kahn

Some of these scholars – for example, Marshall McLuhan and Etienne Gilson – have taught at St. Michael’s College and even used the Kelly Library.


So what does McElcheran’s statue symbolize? The interpretation of Reverend Edward A. Synan (1918-1997), a noted philosopher and medievalist with the Pontifical Institute at the Medieval Studies at St. Michael’s College, was printed in the September 7, 1973 issue of the U of T Bulletin:

There are people outside and inside the Library, all of them gratifyingly different. … Some hurry by and will never go in. … Some will go in, but why hurry? Stand around and talk awhile. After you are in, ideas, facts, perspectives, are all hard to come by. One side of Bill’s sculpture says this and much more.

The other side in this artist’s report on the inside of our Library… (he) has reached the people whose books guarantee them survival. … Bill has put in conversation men and women who met only in libraries and in the intellects of those who use them. … Not all the figures are historic — at least not yet. Look carefully and — who knows? — you may find yourself.

Synan also observed that the head of Jesus can be seen on the side of the statue facing the street. Synan said McElcheran was trying to show that Christ overhears the talk of those waiting outside the library and that He can like what He hears. Knowledge is what a library is all about and it means hard work so a lot of struggle goes on, for first you must get in.

Father John Kelly speaking beside the McElcheran statue outside the Kelly Library, 1973 (I can’t help but wonder if the dude in the front left still has those groovy plaid pants…)

1Analysis from the Kelly Library’s site

Want to see more works by William McElcheran? Click here to read about another of his sculptures I’ve profiled on

Clover Hill Park

And exactly where is Clover Hill Park you may ask? Situated in the northwest corner of Bay Street and St. Joseph Street, it is nestled in amongst the University of Toronto buildings and St. Basil’s Catholic Parish at U of T. It’s kind of small and easy to miss but has a few interesting things to offer.

At one point, neighbourhood residents were incredibly frustrated with the park’s development. In the late 2010s it was finished and ready to enjoy, yet remained closed for months surrounded by fencing. City Councillors at the time – Mike Layton and Kristyn Wong-Tam – received many letters of complaint from area residents. At the time, both Councillors cited issues with payment of the developers, Saddlebrook, which had prevented the City from opening the park.

The building of the park was part of a master plan in 2006 for new condos in the area along with a green space for residents tied to the 50 St. Joseph Street parkette enlargement. Construction of the park began in 2017; in November 2020 it was finally opened and warmly welcomed by the community as a much needed green space.

Although it looks pretty dismal in mid-January, as below, it’s a green and inviting park in the summertime. There’s a little bit of something for everyone at Clover Hill Park:

Mushrooms of the non-magic variety

Bunnies, snails and foxes, oh my…


This piece is entitled Zen West. Created in 1980 by Kosso Eloul, the stainless steel sculpture was donated by Father Dan Donovan of the Basilian Order in 1980.

And of course, the beloved Primrose!

Shameless self promotion:
If you’d like to learn about her story, please visit my Primrose post here.

“Businessman On A Horse”

This 1989 bronze sculpture by William McElcheran is somewhat tricky to find. It is tucked into a small square in St. Michael’s College at U of T.

The artist has remarked that the businessman replaces the classical hero. Instead of dealing with heroic imagery, McElcheran endeavours to find his idea of the “larger-than-life” non-hero. Inspiration for the piece grew as he watched the “fat cats” wheel and deal on the corner of Bay and King Streets.

There are more works by McElcheran around Toronto, which I endeavour to find for future TOcityscapes posts.


Although technically not a TOcityscape, there is another of William McElcheran ‘s sculptures located in Calgary on Stephen Avenue at 1st Street S.W. This one is called Conversation, and was presented to the City of Calgary by Norcen Energy Resources Limited in 1981. Vince and I were in Calgary in the fall of 2019, which is when I grabbed this shot:

William McElcheran is now internationally recognized for his bronze figures of portly businessmen, portraying these self-important men of trade in different settings and situations. His commissioned works can be found in churches, subways, and numerous public places worldwide. Since his death in 1999, McElcheran forgeries have appeared on the market, which is indicative of how well regarded and widely accepted his works have become.


At 7 Hart House Circle in the University of Toronto sits a bronze sculpture entitled Rune. Placed in 2001, the piece was created by artists Randy Gledhill and Berenicci Hershorn.

What exactly is a “rune”? Merriam-Webster defines rune as: any of the characters of any of several alphabets used by the Germanic peoples from about the 3rd to the 13th centuries. As applied here I would imagine rune refers to information/education as provided by a university.

Sunset On Queen’s Park & U of T

It was a lovely sunset last night, so I went over to Queen’s Park and University of Toronto to grab these shots.

Queen’s Park

Ontario Legislative Building
William Lyon Mackenzie Memorial, west side of Queen’s Park
George Brown statue, Queen’s Park

University of Toronto

The sun sets on Bissell House, University of Toronto
U of T sunset, Hart House
Soldiers’ Tower, University of Toronto

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