"It is not within the power of the properly constructed human mind to be satisfied. Progress would cease if this were the case." Sir Frederick G. Banting, in his Cameron Prize Lecture, 1928

Sir Frederick Grant Banting was born in Alliston, Ontario in 1891. Immediately after completing his degree in medicine at the University of Toronto in 1916 he joined the Canadian Army Medical Corps in the First World War effort. Upon returning after the war, where he had been wounded, Banting continued his education and subsequently began his career as a doctor. He became well known as the co-discoverer of insulin and in 1923 received the Nobel Prize for Medicine.


Having an interest in art, Banting contacted A.Y. Jackson in Toronto with a view in mind to purchase a war painting. The two subsequently became friends, bonded by their passion for art and the Canadian landscape. While visiting Jackson, Banting saw a Lawren Harris canvas that he admired and subsequently became a friend of Harris', who nominated him to the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto. Because Jackson and Banting were both bachelors, they made ideal sketching partners and in 1927 the two artists made their first trip together to Quebec. They visited the towns of Saint-Jean, Port Joli, Bic, Tobin and Saint-Fidèle. Jackson introduced Banting not only to Quebec but also to "plein air" painting in the winter. Jackson implied in his memoirs that Banting's medical success had made him so famous that when they checked into the auberges on their sketching trips, Banting would do so under a pseudonym. Jackson and Banting journeyed up to the Arctic in 1927, on the steamer Boethic and in later years they also painted in Ontario and on the prairies.


Banting once expressed to Jackson his intent to retire from medicine to begin painting full time at age 50. Unfortunately, he was never able to realize that objective. His life ended in a plane crash in Newfoundland in 1941, while enroute to the U.K. during an aviation medical research mission. As a result of his early demise, paintings by Frederick Banting are very rare and highly sought after. They can be found in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, Art Gallery of Ontario and at Queen's University, as well as in prestigious private collections of important Canadian art.


In 2004, Banting was voted one of the "Top 10 Greatest Canadians" by viewers of the CBC, finishing fourth. In a separate nation-wide survey by the CBC in 2007, insulin was voted the greatest Canadian invention.


Read more