TODD, ROBERT CLOW, artist and decorative painter; b. perhaps in 1809 at Berwick-upon-Tweed (Northumberland County, England); he was probably the son of John Todd and Alice (Alison) Clow; d. 7 May 1866 at Toronto, Canada West.
Robert Clow Todd spent his youth as a painter of arms on carriages in Edinburgh and London before immigrating to Lower Canada about 1834. He lived in Quebec City and in suburban Montmorency before moving to Toronto in 1853 where he spent the rest of his life. Todd advertised himself during his stay at Quebec as a painter of signs, carriage insignia, and ornamental work, and in Toronto as a “Banner, Herald, Sign, and Ornamental Painter.” He may also have carved and gilded figures in wood. One assumes that his Toronto business was not profitable since he noted on his 1861 census return that the city was too new and too poor to support an ornamental artist.
Todd is remembered mainly for his oil paintings dating from his Quebec years. These are principally portraits of horses commissioned by local sportsmen. Some picture horses and sleighs posed with their owners before the Montmorency Falls in winter. Typical is “The ice cone, Montmorency Falls,” now in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. All these paintings are characterized by a vibrant linear quality and overtones reflecting an interest in genre. This same interest is found in works of such contemporaries as Cornelius Krieghoff* and James Duncan*. Other known Todd paintings give views of the Quebec lumber docks and Montmorency Falls in summer. One copy of an English print has been located. Allegedly he executed murals in at least one civic building in Toronto. Antoine-Sébastien Falardeau*, the artist, worked as an apprentice sign-painter in his shop during 1841, and Todd taught students both at the Séminaire de Québec and at Loretto Convent (Loretto Abbey) in Toronto. Todd was also interested in music.
The artist married Irish-born Mary Anne Boyle and had five sons. A grandson, Valent Ellison Todd, was a staff artist working for the Toronto Evening Telegram and the Montreal Evening Star.
Information received from Sir John Gilmour and Mrs Mary Todd Peate. PAC, RG 31, 1861 census, Toronto, St Andrew’s Ward, p.203. UTL-TF, mss 144, March 1866. Leader, 24 Jan. 1854. Quebec Gazette, 8 Jan. 1834, 11 Jan. 1841. Canada directory, 1857–58. City of Toronto illustrated business directory for 1865 . . . (Toronto, 1865). Harper, Early painters and engravers. National Gallery of Can., Catalogue of paintings and sculpture, ed. R. H. Hubbard et al. (4v., Ottawa and Toronto, 1959–65), III: Canadian school, 313. Quebec business directory, 1854. H.-R. Casgrain, A. S. Falardeau et A. E. Aubry (Montréal, 1912), 21. Émile Falardeau, Un maître de la peinture: Antoine-Sébastien Falardeau (Montréal, 1936), 38–39. Gérard Morisset, La peinture traditionnelle au Canada français (Ottawa, 1960), 138.