George K. Rackus Biography

George K. Rackus




George K. Rackus (Račkauskas), painter, sculptor, textile designer, and printmaker, was born in Kalvaria, Lithuania in 1927. His family emigrated to Canada in 1931, and as a teenager he apprenticed at a silkscreening shop during World War II. Rackus' formal art education began at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, followed by studies at the Ontario College of Art in Ontario, Canada. He left for Paris in the fall of 1952 to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and to assist the artist Andre Lhote.

Aside from short “work periods” that required his return back to Canada every few years, Rackus continued to live in Europe until 1960. His first solo exhibitions were held in Paris, London and Barcelona and later extended to Luxembourg and Brussels. His annual participation in the Salon des Independants as well as the Exhibition Arts Plastic in Paris, added to his laurels as did his involvements with the Penwith Society in Cornwall and the London Group in the United Kingdom.

Upon his return to Canada in 1960, his work caught the attention of noted art dealers Agnes Lefort of the Agnes Lefort Gallery in Montreal, and Douglas Duncan of the Picture Loan Society in Toronto, where Rackus held his first Canadian shows that year. This was followed by a showing at Gallery Moos in 1962 in Toronto. His connections with some of Toronto’s major art dealers helped to consolidate his position as an emerging Abstract artist on the Canadian art scene, and his work was covered by noted art critics in both the French and English press, including critic Francoise de Repentigny, who covered Rackus' first Canadian show for Le Devoir. Toronto took somewhat longer to warm up to the abstract expressionistic works of George Rackus but the positive response of Pearle McCarthy and later Kay Kritzwiser, both art critics for the Globe and Mail did much to bring his works to the attention of Toronto’s art-going public. In 1964, Rackus turned his attention to aluminum, utilizing an anodizing process he altered to create metal art works; he is considered the pioneer of this technique.

Rackus continued to live and work in Mississauga, Canada, where he was involved in the arts community as an art reviewer, curator, gallery director, and supporter of the arts. He died in 2019.

Selected exhibitions:
Galerie Foyer des Artists (1954, 1959); British Institute, Barcelona (1956); Galena Corcarije, Ibiza (1956); Hart House, Toronto (1957); Galerie Agnes Lefort, Montreal (1960); Picture Loan Society, Toronto (1960); New Vision Centre Gallery, London (1961); Galerie des Beaux Arts, Paris (1961); the Pratt Center for Contemporary Printmaking (1968); and Saint-Louis College, Edmundston (1973). Additional shows were held throughout Europe and the U.S. throughout the artist's life. Rackus' work is held in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada; Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Queen's University, Canada; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, among others.