Project Description


Michael French

Michael French is an internationally recognized artist



Michael French is an internationally recognized artist

Born in 1951, Michael has exhibited in Toronto, Montreal, New York, Paris and San Miguel de Allende and now London since his first exhibition in 1968.

His father, Dr. Barry French, was a professor and recipient of the Order of Canada, awards from NASA and the Canadian Space Agency. Michael´s mother, Gloria French, was a teacher in normal and specialized education most of her life. When Michael was young he lived and travelled with the family extensively throughout Europe which had an influence on his painting subjects in the years to come.

In 1972 Michael met the American realist, Andrew Wyeth, in South Cushing, Maine. Wyeth was supportive while giving Michael valuable advice regarding the art world and painting techniques. Wyeth was a tremendous influence in French’s earlier work. Michael corresponded with Mr. Wyeth, including sending him invitations and catalogues from major exhibitions Michael had in cities such as New York and Paris. In the same year that Michael met Andrew Wyeth, Michael joined the Roberts Gallery in Toronto where he exhibited for the next 25 years. At that time the Roberts Gallery was definitely one of the most prestigious galleries in Canada representing artists such as A.J.Casson, Lemieux and Tom Forrestal. The early shows in the Roberts Gallery coincided with a period of time in which Michael was homesteading in Newfoundland, where he mostly survived by hunting moose, caribou, waterfowl, caught fish, cut and chopped firewood to heat his home , heat water and cook with. He spent about half of the day doing survival chores and the other half painting by natural light. Sometimes Michael would go into the country or Barrens of Newfoundland and lived off the land using his survival skills for two or three months at a time as well as drawing and photographing subjects for his paintings every day. All of his paintings from this period were painted on an art board composed of acid free paper. He painted in acrylic using watercolor techniques. His subjects were often the ocean, buildings, wildlife and people.

After the homesteading period he moved to Quebec on New Year’s day 1983 where he lived alternately between two residences, an apartment with a large bay window overlooking the Plains of Abraham in old Quebec City and a stone farmhouse dating back to the “Regime Francais” on the Ile D´Orleans which had a view towards the estuary of the St. Lawrence River. During the Quebec years (1983 to 2002), Michael painted on solid acrylic panels. His subjects were similar to the Newfoundland subjects, but often were more surrealistic and painted from memory. In the mid 80’s, Michael entered the Basmadjian Gallery in Paris. There he had group exhibitions and a major solo exhibition in 1987.

As a result, Richard Humphrey, a dealer from New York, invited Michael to exhibit in the Humphrey Gallery in the East Village. Michael exhibited there until the early 90s and had a major exhibition in the Humphrey when it opened the new gallery on Broadway in SoHo. After the Humphrey gallery years, Michael worked with James Whitfield in New York, a former dealer with the Findlay Gallery. He had an exhibition in the Dennis Di Lorenzo Gallery just off Madison and 62nd and two exhibitions in the Forbes Gallery Museum just north of Washington Square on Fifth Avenue in conjunction with James. Michael has had a long professional relationship and friendship with the Forbes family which exists to this day. The Forbes family has acquired 18 of his paintings over the years. The last commission was a portrait of Adelaide Forbes, Christopher (Kip) Forbes´ granddaughter, in 2012. Michael worked with the Hammer Gallery in New York for three years after his exhibition in the year 2000 in the Forbes Museum. After Michael´s second exhibition in the Forbes Museum in 2008, he was represented by the Findlay Gallery in New York for a short period of time. In New York, Michael has had four solo exhibitions (including two museum shows) and was represented by five different galleries and James Whitfield.At the end of 2002, Michael moved to San Miguel De Allende where he now resides partially with his Mexican/ Canadian family. He works in his studio most days except for vacation time spent on the family´s 49 foot Hinckley sailboat, sailing on the Pacific Coast of Mexico or in Canada. His subjects include seascapes, San Miguel street scenes, and French harbor subjects such as in the village of Honfleur, still lives, people and landscapes of Canada. The move to Mexico coincided with Michael´s work becoming more focused on hyper-realism than the partially surrealist work of the Quebec period. In Canada Michael worked with the Roberts gallery for 25 years from 1972 to 1997. In 2005, Michael started working with the prestigious Kinsman Robinson Gallery in Toronto but the relationship ended with his last exhibition there in the Fall of 2021 with the closure of the gallery because of the Covid pandemic. They had many successful exhibitions over those 15 years. In the Fall of 2021, after leaving the Kinsman Robinson Gallery, Michael started working with a marvelous gallery in London England called Diplomat Treasures International. The owner and curator, Andre Van Hese, invited Michael to exhibit there after seeing his last exhibition in the Kinsman Robinson Gallery. Diplomat Treasures International gallery is on 25 Church Street in central London in a walking district, roughly halfway between Regents Park and Hyde Park near the American University.

Michael paints images from reality, carefully composing the compositions, looking at photographs he has taken of his subject before he even starts the painting process on panels. His work often reflects the influence of the great early 20th century European surrealists, such as Magritte. A noted aspect of his paintings is the extreme light which sometimes borders on the surreal. His work now figures prominently in major public and private collections around the world including those of HRH Prince Charles, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and President George W. Bush, who gave Michael´s commissioned portrait of Mr. Bush to his Presidential Library. President George W. Bush invited Michael as a VIP guest to the inauguration ceremony of the Presidential Library. The MC was then Governor George Bush and the guest speakers were Nancy Reagan, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and of course, George Walker Bush. Michael did the tour of the museum with Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Whitfield. In 1995, when the Forbes family started collecting Michael’s work, Christopher Forbes essentially became Michael’s patron in New York. Christopher Forbes presented one of Michael’s paintings to HRH Prince Of Wales. In 2011, one of Michael´s paintings, a street scene from San Miguel, was presented to President Felipe Calderón of Mexico and is now in his personal collection.

In the last 54 years Michael has had a total of 37 group exhibitions and 31 solo exhibitions since his first solo show in 1968 in the McCready Gallery in downtown Toronto.

His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales
President Felipe Calderón of México
Hon. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney
Hon. Frank Moores, estate
Hon. John Aird, estate
Hon. Barney Danson, estate
Hon. Don Jamieson, estate
Andre Van Hese, owner of Diplomat Treasures International gallery, London England
Bill Breukelman, past founder, chairman of IMAX and Sciex with Dr. Barry French
Anne Murray, Singer, Performer
Christopher and Astrid Forbes, past Chairman of Forbes Magazine
Harold Henry Stream III
Craig Dobbin, estate, Canadian Helicopter Corporation
David Sobey, estate, Sobeys store
Douglas Mackay, Former RBC Dominion Securities
Fraser Fell, Former RBC Dominion Securities
Garnet Watchorn, President, Graywoods and son Graham Watchorn
Stephan & Adriana Benediktson
Susan Glass and ArniThorsteinson, President, Canadian Shelter Co. (Member World Presidents Organization)
Duncan and Judy Jessiman, President, Bison Transport (Member World Presidents Organization)
William and Donna Lovatt, former CFO London Life and Great West Life
Dr. Steven Funk, CEO Dignity Fund (Member World Presidents Organization)
Blaine and Barbara King, Former President Shoppers Optical
Gerry Connor, Cumberland RCB Management
Gordon Ritchie, Past President, RBC Dominion Securities, New York
Irving Ungerman, Philanthropist, estate
Jeanne Beker, Television Celebrity
Professor and Dr. and Mrs. J. Barry French, past Dean of Graduate Studies , University of Toronto
Kenneth Field, President, Invest Corp.
Jim Meekeson, President, Trimin Capital Corp.
Mark Wettlaufer, Past President, Asset Management Toronto Dominion Bank, Fidelity Trust
Moe Koffman, Flutist, Musician, estate
Peter Widdirington, estate, Past Deputy, Commissioner of Major League Baseball
Peter Bronfman, estate
Brian Robbins, Exco Technology Ltd.
Ron Meade, Altamira Mutual Funds
David Graham, estate
Agnes Etherington Art Center
AGO, Art Gallery of Ontario  in Toronto
MAC in Montreal
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec
Lake of the Woods Museum


In the last 19 years, Michael has returned to painting on acid free art board panels that he has specially constructed. The image from the photograph or from his mind is usually transferred by pencil to the art panel. Some artists like Vermeer used lenses to accomplish this and in modern time artists use various techniques such as projection, tracing, using a grid or other tricks of the trade. The next stage in Michael’s painting process is the under-painting, which is done totally by airbrushing the sky and water, for example, and always in acrylic. Airbrush is essentially a very fine spray. The reason why the under-painting is not normally done in oil is because layers of oil over many years tend to crack but if only the over-painting is done in oil or glazes there is little risk of eventual cracking. Michael has occasionally done the total under-painting in black to white in oil and then glazed in the color only, as was the technique used by the Flemish masters, but normally he under paints in acrylic which is a far more stable medium and far more suitable for the airbrush under-painting.

Michael references the photograph for hyper realistic detail, but uses it merely as a source ( it was his creation ) , the reality, which freezed the light or motion for Michael to paint the unchanging image, is almost like the reality is frozen in time because the painting might take a month or more to complete. His works are interpretive and highly personalized. Some works can take months of extreme concentration, and the degree of finish in the final product renders the artist’s hand almost invisible. The reason is because Michael paints each painting with many layers of thin paint and sometimes thin glazes. Each painting is finally varnished with between 8 to 12 layers of non removable and then removable varnish.


Perhaps the biggest single influences in Michael,s technique and extreme use of light were the two artists, René Magritte, the great surrealist and Michelangelo de merisi da Caravaggio, the greatest world master, Mannerist artist. Andrew Wyeth , the formidable American Magic Realist painter was one of Michael,s earliest mentors as was the marvelous Canadian Realist, Alex Colville. Don Eddy was one of the great airbrush artists from the 70s, a hyper-realist, who had a direct influence on Michael,s work. Another influence was Ralph Goings, a hyper-realist that eschewed the traditional oil painting technique of layering colors to develop depth. He dedicated himself to painting each object within the composition individually—often from left to right—approaching the image as a text.

In 2001, British artist David Hockney published the book Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters, in which he argued that Vermeer (among other Renaissance and Baroque artists including Hans Holbein and Diego Velázquez) used optics to achieve precise positioning in their compositions, and specifically some combination of curved mirrors, camera obscura, and camera lucida. The techniques used by the great masters have been revealed and studied through the years. Artists such as Michael French, Ralph Goings and Andy Warhol, just to name a few have always adopted and created their own unique techniques for painting.

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