The McMaster Museum of Art

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    DRENTERS, Josef
    Date: Canadian, 1930 - 1986
    The sudden death of Josef (Yosef Gertrudis) Drenters in the winter of 1983 brought to an early close a most distinguished career of a major Canadian sculptor, artist and preservationist.
    The Macdonald Stewart Art Centre in Guelph held the last exhibition of his work Images of the Madonna during the winter of 1982-983 Many of his pieces continue to be displayed in public collections including the Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston; Art Gallery of Windsor; Edmonton Art Gallery; Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington; Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Guelph; Princeton Art Museum, New Jersey; Sarnia Public Library and Art Gallery; The University of Guelph; Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo; and the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

    Yosef Drenters was born in 1930 in The Netherlands, where his youth was spent in classical studies preparing for the priesthood. At the age of 14 he began to take drawing instructions from a local artist, Willem van Ejendhoven. Yosef was also influenced by his father, a skilled blacksmith, who was adept at making small works in forged iron.

    In 1951 after giving up his monastic life, he came to Canada with his family, who first settled in British Columbia. His first years in Canada were spent working variously as a lumberjack, a rancher, a miner and a farmer. In 1954 the family moved to Ontario and purchased a large farm on Highway 24 north of Guelph, where in 1958 Yosef began experimenting in sculpture after several years of painting.

    His first solo exhibition was organized by Florence Partridge, Chief Librarian of Massey Library, Ontario Agricultural College. In 1960 his work was exhibited in Toronto at Dorothy Cameron's Here and Now gallery, and he was heralded by critics and collectors as a major Canadian sculptor. He received a Canada Council grant in 1961, was the subject of a CBC documentary film, and was accepted as a member of the Ontario Society of Artists. The Canadian Department of Trade and Commerce commissioned him to create a sculpture for the Tokyo Trade Fair in 1965. His Pioneer Family won the competition for sculpture for the Ontario Pavilion Expo 67, and he was commissioned as well to create a giant toy horse for La Ronde.

    In 1960, Drenters purchased the old Rockwood Academy, a school for boys in Rockwood, Ontario. He spent many years working on the restoration of the old stone building, as well as continuing his career as a sculptor. In 1974, Drenters was made a member of the Royal Canadian Academy.

    The original version of this article was published by the Guelph Historical Society in: Historic Guelph, The Royal City, Vol. XXIII 1983-1984