Selwyn Dewdney’s Mural at Elector-Motive Division

Selwyn Dewdney (1909-1979) was a London based artist responsible for a number of murals. One of these was painted for the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors at its plant on Oxford Street in London. With the closure of this facility, the mural was donated to Museum London in 2012. The mural depicts scenes from Canadian diesel rail experience from the west coast to the east, and was located in the former lobby to Electro-Motive Division. The mural was divided into three main panels located on three walls of the entrance foyer.

They are described by London newspaper columnist James Reaney as, “Bold, muscular, epic, bustling, urban. Vast in their landscapes. A tribute to Canada in the early 1950s, when moving across the country sea-to-sea still meant a ground game by road or rail on a big scale. A tribute to the locomotives and other big vehicles produced at the London plant for decades after it first flourished under the General Motors Diesel banner more than 60 years ago.”

Dewdney was born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan and later attended the University of Toronto and the Ontario College of Education where he received a High School Assistant’s Certificate and Art Specialists Certificate. Before moving to London, he also studied at the Ontario College of Art.

He taught at Sir Adam Beck Secondary School from 1936 to 1945, and later illustrated and wrote books, and was commissioned to create murals. Dewdney developed an interest in art therapy while working at Westminster Veterans Hospital (now Parkwood Institute) and was a pioneer in this field establishing the first of its kind in Canada. He also taught several London artists, including Jack Chambers, Greg Curnoe, Bernice Vincent, Tony Urquart, Gillian Saward and John Nenly.

Other murals are located at Victoria Hospital, London Life, the Odeon Theatre and Sir Adam Beck Collegiate in London. Elsewhere in Ontario there are murals in the boardroom at the Bank of Nova Scotia at King and Bay in Toronto, and Waterloo Trust in Kitchener.

He also had a keen interest in native culture and traveled extensively in the north, documenting aboriginal rock art.

East wall detail