Toller Cranston
Toller Cranston

1949 -2015

He is his own work of art,” The Globe and Mail, 2003.

He was fearless in expression, courageous in creativity, and innovative in interpretation. Toller had a determination, dedication and a desire to go where no skater had gone before.

Olympic Medalist, world renowned for his artistry, Toller Cranston brought freedom of expression to the sport of skating. Acclaimed as the most influential figure skater of the 20th century, Toller revolutionized skating. He took the sport to new heights. He inspired generations.

He was not only an artist on the ice. His paintings—colourful, flamboyant and intricate—continue to be sought by collectors all over the world.

He became a legend.

Biography

Toller was born in Hamilton, Ontario and grew up in Cambridge and in Kirkland Lake. He finished high school in Montreal and won one of fifty spots to attend the École des Beaux-Arts. He left the school early when one of his professors told him there was nothing more they could teach him.

Toller knew what he wanted. He moved to Toronto to train with legendary skating coach Ellen Burka and to paint and paint and paint. He had his first solo show well before his twentieth birthday.

After years of skating—Olympics, world championships, Ice Capades, theatre and television …he left Toronto for San Miguel de Allende, a colonial-era city in Mexico’s central highlands. This UNESCO world heritage site is known for its baroque Spanish architecture, thriving arts scene and cultural festivals. Toller bought an estate with a garden paradise on which he lived, worked and created until his fatal heart attack on January 23, 2015 at the age of 65.

In addition to creating thousands of oil paintings and exquisite line drawings, Toller experimented with materials beyond canvas—painting on ostrich eggs, wooden religious statues and furniture. He designed enormous elaborate chandeliers in metal and blown glass. He created a series of handwoven carpets. He organized a fashion show of hand-painted leather jackets and trench coats. He released a series of limited edition silk scarves.

Toller Cranston Smiling

Toller went through periods of inspiration and creativity in which various themes emerged, like his obsession with strawberries that began in the 70’s. His Imperial Russian series was inspired by a visit to Moscow’s Kremlin. There he was exposed to the opulence of Russian elites. Seeing wonders like Catherine the Great’s wedding dress made of spun silver and ecclesiastical garments encrusted with staggering numbers of pearls and gems had a profound influence on his artwork.

By the end of his life, he had guaranteed his legacy in Canada and around the world. A prolific artist, Toller had accomplished over two hundred and fifty solo art shows internationally. He was a member of the Order of Canada and has been memorialized on Canada’s Walk of Fame, in the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, Canadian Figure Skating Hall of Fame, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, and the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame.

Accomplishments

Toller Cranston: Athlete, artist, illustrator, author, designer, choreographer, coach, commentator, and star of award-winning television specials and films.

Toller Cranston Photos 5
Toller Cranston Photos 15

Skating

Three time World Free Skating Champion
World Professional Figure Skater of the Year, 1988
Olympic Bronze Medalist, Innsbruck, 1976
World Figure Skating Bronze Medalist, 1974
Six Time Canadian Champion 1970-1976
Skate Canada International Champion 1973 and 1975
Gold Medal, Canada Winter Games 1967

Awards

Officer of the Order of Canada, 1977
Canadian Athlete of the Year, 1975
Canada’s Walk of Fame, 2003
Canada Sports Hall of Fame, 1977
Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, 1976
Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, 1996
Skate Canada Hall of Fame, 1997
Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, 1996
World Figure Skating Hall of Fame, 2004
Sports Federation Athlete of the Year, 1974
Special Olympic Order, Canadian Olympic Association, 1995
Order of Merit, City of Toronto, 1988

Honorary Degree LL.D., Carleton University, 2011

Paintings in prominent art collections world wide as well as more than 300 exhibitions mostly one man shows.

Broadway and Radio City Music Hall Shows
Performed in North America, Europe, China Japan
Guest judge for Battle of the Blades
Official Artist of Skate Canada, 2013
ACTRA Award
ANIK Award
Montreux Award

Artwork

Paintings in prominent art collections world wide as well as more than 300 exhibitions mostly one man shows.

Books

Toller, 1976, number two in the Canadian non-fiction charts
A Ram on the Rampage, 1977
Zero Tollerance: An Intimate Memoir by the Man Who Revolutionized Figure Skating (1997) with Martha Lowder Kimball
When Hell Freezes Over: Should I Bring My Skates? (2000), with Martha Lowder Kimball
Ice Cream: Thirty of the Most Interesting Skaters in History, 2002
The Nutcracker, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Retold by Veronica Tennant. Illustrated by Toller Cranston. 1985

Toller Cranston Skating
Toller Cranston Photos 16
Toller Cranston Photos 17