David Partridge

1919–2006

Biography

David Gerry Partridge (October 5, 1919 – December 11, 2006) was a Canadian artist and sculptor best known for creating "naillies," works (sometimes very large) made of nails of varying sizes driven into plywood to different heights to form representational or abstract sculptures.

He was born in Akron, Ohio in 1919. From 1928 to 1935 he lived in England, then aged sixteen moved to Canada. In 1938 he went to Trinity College, Toronto. In 1941 he joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and served as a flying instructor until the end of World War II. After the war he studied under various teachers in Canada, then in 1950 went to the Slade School of Fine Art for a year. Back in Canada he taught at Ridley College and founded the St. Catharines Public Library Art Gallery (later absorbed into the Rodman Hall Art Centre at Brock University) and became its first curator. In 1956 he retired from teaching, moved to Paris to study under Stanley William Hayter at Atelier 17, then moved to England, then returned again to Canada in 1958 and settled in Ottawa. It was there that he began to work on "naillies."

To create them, he would begin with a piece of plywood, although he was known to use doors, beams and other surfaces, which he sometime covered in buffed or abraded aluminum. Then he would hammer in nails of all sorts (aluminum, copper and steel) and lengths, beginning with the shortest to create a 'relief sculpture.' According to his fancy, he polished or trimmed the hammered nail heads, wrapped the Naillie in duct tape to give the surface more texture and lacquered or painted portions of the finished work.

Partridge had his first solo exhibition at the Robertson Galleries in Ottawa, Ontario, in 1960. That same year he and his family moved back to England, where they stayed until 1974, when they returned once more to Canada.

Partridge's works have been acquired by the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Tate and many other institutions. One of his major commissions was Metropolis, which is in the entrance of Toronto City Hall, and consists of nine panels of over 100,000 nails.

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