Frederick Grant Banting was born in Alliston, Ontario in 1891. In 1916 immediately after completing his degree in medicine at the University of Toronto he joined the Canadian Army Medical Corps and the First World War effort. When he returned, Banting continued his education and subsequently began his career as a doctor. He became well known as the co-discoverer of insulin and in 1923 he received the Nobel Prize for Medicine. Banting, who had an interest in art, had been wounded in the war and when he returned to Toronto he contacted A.Y. Jackson with a view in mind to purchasing a war painting. The two subsequently became friends, bonded by their passion for art and the Canadian landscape. While visiting Jackson, Banting saw a Lawren Harris canvas that he admired and subsequently became a friend of Harris', who nominated him to the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto. Because Jackson and Banting were both bachelors, they made ideal sketching partners and in 1927 the two artists made their first trip together to Quebec, to St. Jean Port Joli, Bic, Tobin and St. Fidele. Jackson introduced Banting not only to Quebec but also to "plein air" painting in winter. Jackson implied in his memoirs that Banting's medical success had made him so famous that when they checked into the auberges on their sketching trips, Banting would do so under a pseudonym. Jackson and Banting journeyed up to the Arctic in 1927 on the Steamer Boethic and in later years they also painted in Ontario and the prairies. |
Banting once expressed to Jackson his intent to retire from medicine at age 50 and to paint full time. He was never able to realize that objective, for his life ended in a plane crash in Newfoundland in 1941, while he was enroute to the U.K. during an aviation medical research mission. As a result of his early demise, paintings by Frederick Banting are very rare and highly sought after. They can be found in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario and at Queen's University, and in prestigious private collections of important Canadian art.
In 2004, Banting was voted one of the "Top 10 Greatest Canadians" by viewers of the CBC, finishing 4th. In a separate nation-wide survey by the CBC in 2007 insulin was voted the greatest Canadian invention.