William McElcheran R.C.A.

The Listener, 1985

bronze, ed. 5 of 9
19 in. height
$24,000 Cdn.

Numbered in the cast on the base WMc / ’85, 5/9

Private collection, Ontario;
Sale of Sotheby’s, Important Canadian Art, Toronto, June 2, 2010, lot. 138;

Gerhard Finckh and David P. Silcox, William Mac (William McElcheran) The Businessman, 1991, illustrated p. 55

William McElcheran is widely recognized as one of Canada’s most accomplished figural sculptors, and is most renowned for his bronze depictions of portly businessmen. McElcheran’s businessmen are found in public and private collections across the world, and appear in the same costume in nearly every instance: an overcoat and hat, usually carrying a briefcase or an umbrella, partaking in different sorts of busy everyday tasks. For the artist, these men act as his replacement for the classical hero. They represent the “anti-ideal”, “the Everyman, the ubiquitous non-hero” whose “mission in our time is to be part of a larger organization of which he has to be a functioning part” (1).

In The Listener, we see a group of four businessmen gathered near a large column, with another hidden behind it listening in on their conversation. In his analysis of the work, writer Gerhard Finckh notes the power structures at play, that the column represents “the crude power
of enterprise” and “goes unnoticed by the talking businessmen who are standing in its shadow” (2). McElcheran’s observations of power can be found throughout his body of work. His businessmen move around seeking success and control, existing largely unaware that the structures that they conform to are in fact controlling them. While satirical, they are empathetic to the human experience in the industrial age, poking well-intentioned fun at corporate society.

1. Inge Lindemann,”With Sympathy for my Victims…: Interview with William McElcheran”, William Mac: The Businessman, edited by Inge
Linedmann, pp. 26-27
2. Gerhard Finckh, “Wander Harmlessly Here..” The Businessman in the Work of the Sculptor William McElcheran”, William Mac: The
Businessman, edited by Inge Linedmann, p. 65

Born in Hamilton, the promising young artist received a scholarship to study at the Ontario College of Art. In 1948, he graduated at the top of his class and was awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal. During his early years as a woodworker, McElcheran focused on liturgical art as he began…