Kitchener Market Portraits by Tom Cayley

Visitors to Homer Watson House & Gallery may not be familiar with some of the other artists who once resided in this historic home. One such artist is Tom Cayley, who along with his wife Ruthe, operated the second iteration of the Doon School of Fine Arts in the 1970s.

One of Tom’s artistic specialties was portraiture. He had a unique style, oftentimes crossed between realism and caricature.  Tom was well-travelled, portrait-painting and sketching as far south as Florida, yet once he took up residence at the Watson House the Kitchener Market became a go-to place for inspiration.

Tom Cayley Sketching a Portrait at the Sidewalk Art Festival in Key West, Florida, 1970. HWHG Archive
Tom Cayley Sketching a Portrait at the Sidewalk Art Festival in Key West, Florida, 1970. HWHG Archive

Boasting a history reaching back into the 1830s, the Kitchener Market is one of the area’s oldest traditions. With Mennonite roots, the Market is a diverse hub of artisan goods and food.

As written by The Spectator in 1970:

“There, for instance, is Tom Cayley and his wife Ruth(e), who own and operate the Doon School of Fine Arts. He’s here almost every market day, making sketches of stallholders and passerby, subsequently completing them at home and putting the final products up for sale at reasonable prices.”

Two print copies of Tom Cayley’s “Faces of the Market” drawings. HWHG Archive.

One of Tom’s most famous pieces completed at the Kitchener Market is a series of portraits of Mennonite characters based on the people he was observing around him. He turned these sketches into various artforms, including wooden carvings which were sold at the School. One of the Gallery’s most recent acquisitions is a chalk and pastel commission of two of these distinctive portraits.

Untitled Chalk Drawings of Mennonite Woman and Man. Tom Cayley. c1970. HWHG Permanent Collection.
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