Guttorn (Tori) Otto
(1919 – 2012)
“Magnificent land and seascapes; a chilly winters night starkly captured in the eerie light of the moon;
a breath of summer personified by stately delphiniums in a delightful cottage garden. The work of
Guttorn Otto brings to life the power and beauty of nature. Water and sky hold a particular
fascination for this accomplished artist whose Ballentrae, Ontario home doubled
as a studio and gallery for more than 40 years”
Kate Gilderdale – Journalist
Guttorn Otto (1919-2012) was born in the German Community in Lodz, Poland in 1919. He was the son
of a gifted Lutheran Pastor whom himself was an accomplished painter and musician. In his father’s keen
pursuit of the arts, he collected books and paintings and turned the family home into a combination gallery,
library and academy. He taught his children from an early age, to play instruments and to paint in oils and watercolours.
Guttorn always felt more indebted to this early training and influence in his father’s home than
to all his later studies. As a child Guttorn also studied the cello with intention of making music into his career.
Up until his death he loved to play the cello, especially the music of Bach. After studying at the Lodz Conservatory
of Music, he found that nature had a greater influence on his feelings than music, and painting seemed to be the
most satisfactory means of communicating his thoughts and visions. He entered the Academy in Warsaw and
began prepare for what was to be a lifelong dedication to capturing on canvas the moods of nature, to which he
was so sensitive.
His studies at the Academy were interrupted by the war, but he continued to paint whenever and wherever
he could. His famous Canadian snow scenes owe something to his experiences in the bitter cold of Ultima
Thule – Finland, where he first developed his affection for the subtleties and the majesty of the winter landscape.
After the war Guttorn settled in Western Germany where he resumed his studies under some of the best known
art teachers of the time including Professor Bordjuk, Barroness Von Augstez, Professor Kausler and Herr
Rosskopf. He also became interested in the watercolour techniques of Caspar Friedrich also known as “the
German Turner”. As his own painting gained recognition – numerous exhibitions followed and he was voted
a member of the Professional Society of Creative Artists of West Germany.
In 1952 he immigrated to Canada with wife Gertrude and their children Herbert and Hildy. They settled in Toronto
and later in Ballentrae, Ontario. His enthusiasm for North American Landscapes took him to many destinations
including Northern Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, British Columbia, New England and the warmer
climates of Florida, San Francisco and the South West. He always reserved time for solitary trips to the
wilderness to study again and again the mysterious beauties of nature. Guttorn Otto described himself as
an adorer of nature. When he saw a scene he liked he would simply set up his easel on the side of the
road and start painting. While most of his works were completed on the spot, there were occasions where
he would rough out a sketch and finish the job in his studio at home. Not only did Guttorn go on to become
a highly recognized and acclaimed painter working in oil and watercolour, but also a lecturer and teacher.
He was eagerly sought after by clubs and societies. He mentored artists, through knowledgeable
demonstration and enthusiasm.
As one of his students’s stated:
“Tori didn’t teach – he showed – and assumed that if you had the desire and the intelligence you would try
it and find your own way. He gave you a wonderful gift: the freedom to choose – how to paint your way
not necessarily his”
Guttorn always looked for the whole truth of nature – in the monotones of winter twilight, in the blaze of
autumn colour, in the quiet subtleties of spring and the rich warmth of summer – the mood is seldom simple.
Guttorn exhibited widely in Canada, Germany and the United States with many successful one-man Show,
including annual solo exhibitions during the 1950’s and 1960’s at the renowned Toronto Eaton’s Gallery.
His paintings can also be found in numerous public and private art collections. He passed away on
June 2, 2012 surrounded by his family, his cello and of course his paintings.
City of Toronto – Former Mayor William Dennison
Ford Motor Co. of Canada
Ontario Steel Company
Molson Breweries Ltd
Permanent Art Collection of the Republic of China
Canadian Medical Association
Ontario Legislative Assembly Collection
McMichael Canadian Art Collection