Canadian sculptor Haydn Davies dies at 86

Haydn Llewellyn Davies, a Canadian artist whose large wood and steel stand sculptures outside public buildings in several Canadian cities, died last week. He was 86.

Haydn Llewellyn Davies, a Canadian artist whose large wood and steel sculptures stand outside public buildings in several Canadian cities, died last week. He was 86.

Davies died in Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on March 24 of complications relating to liver and lung cancer.

In 2005, Davies became embroiled in a dispute with Lambton College in Sarnia, which tore down his outdoor sculpture, Homage, claiming the sculpture was a danger to children who attempted to climb on it.

Created in 1974 of red cedar, it was his first public commission — won over more than 100 other artists in an international competition.

Davies sued the college for than $1 million over the destruction of his artwork, saying it was a violation of his rights as an artist and a cause of "emotional distress."

The case has not yet reached court, but it is cited internationally as an example of artistic creation under siege.

After earning the Lambton commission, Davies went on to display his work around the world.

Davies has work in the permanent collections of Galleria Nazionale D'Arte Moderna e Contemporenea in Rome, Museo d'Arte Moderna in Venice and the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique in Brussels.

His steel and wood sculptures stand outside the Bell Canada Centre in Toronto, the provincial offices in Windsor and the Art Centre in Burlington, Ont.

Davies was born in Rhymney, Wales, on Nov. 11, 1921, and his family came to Canada when he was about nine. He began studying art at Central Technical School and the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, graduating in 1939.

He served overseas in Bomber Command in the Royal Canadian Air Force. A poster done by Davies during his service in the RCAF is in the permanent poster collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

When he returned to civilian life, Davies began a career in graphic design and advertising.

He became a senior vice-president and director of McCann-Erickson Advertising of Canada, but resigned in 1976 at the age of 55 to become a full-time sculptor.

The Lambton commission brought him international renown and he took part in group and solo exhibits around the world.

Davies was attracted to the tactile qualities of steel and wood, said Canadian art history professor Alison McQueen, writing about a show of his maquettes at the Burlington Art Centre.

He initially worked in clay, but was attracted to the textures of corroded steel, patinated bronze and "rejected" wood, McQueen said.

In scale and form, his sculptures were influenced by the ancient stone "cromlechs" or burial markers of his native Wales.

He also did smaller-scale sculptures, often in wood, to explore linear forms.

Davies was an artist-in-residence at Indian River College in Vero Beach, Fla., in the 1980s and another of his public sculptures stands on the grounds of the college.

He is a  member of the Royal Canadian Academy and also guest-lectured at University of Toronto.

In 2004, his sculpture Algoma Blue, which stands outside the Art Gallery of Algoma in Sault Ste. Marie was designated a heritage piece by the Canadian government.

He is survived by Eva, his wife of 60 years, sons Bryan and Trevor, several grandchildren and one great-grandson.