Canadian artist John Russell Richmond (1926–2013) began drawing and painting as a child, “around the time that he was learning to hold a crayon without eating it.” He was still producing highly original work at Lake Chapala well into his eighties.
Richmond was a painter, illustrator, muralist, educator and author. He was born in Toronto on 25 October 1926 and died in Lindsay, Ontario, on 17 January 2013.
He retired from his position at the Ontario College of Art & Design in 1991 to divide his time between Ontario and Ajijic. Richmond was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour, the Ontario Society of Artists and the Arts and Letters Club.
Richmond wrote and/or illustrated numerous publications, including Gambit (1958); Around Toronto (1969); Discover Toronto (1976); and the “Discover Ontario” series of whimsical maps and columns, published in Toronto Calendar Magazine in the 1970s. Together with his partner, Lorraine Surcouf, he also published A Tearful Tour of Toronto’s Riviera of Yesteryear (1961).
John Richmond also undertook mural commissions and was responsible for several works in Toronto, including in the original Maple Leaf Gardens, the former Air Canada Centre, and the Knob Hill Farms supermarket, the largest supermarket of its time in Greater Toronto. Richmond also completed a mural in the public library of Uxbridge, the township where he had his home and studio. Richmond was a founding member of the Uxbridge Celebration of the Arts.
Richmond’s art was exhibited widely during his lifetime in Canada, and later in Mexico, where he adopted the art name Juan Compo.
As Juan Compo, in Ajijic, he produced an impressive series of mixed-media images of imaginary ancient American goddesses as well as more traditional paintings.
This 5-minute YouTube video is a good introduction to his project.
Like many artists before and since, living at Lake Chapala jolted this artist of talent into an entirely fresh, creative phase of his career. His stated ambition was “to raise awareness of The Ancient American Goddess among all inhabitants of both American continents, North and South.”
- Anon. 2013. John Russell Richmond (obituary). The Globe and Mail, 22 January 2013.
- Anon. “Focus on Art.” Ojo del Lago, February 2003.
- Anon. 2013. John Russell Richmond – Obituary. Toronto Star, 22 January 2013.
- Juan Compo. “Ancient American Goddess Art by Juan Compo“, MexConnect. 1 August 2008.
- Juan Compo. “Ancient American Imaginary Goddesses.” (artist’s former website)
- Shelagh Damus. 2013. “Artist John Richmond dies at 86.” The Uxbridge Cosmos, 31 January 2013, p12.
Comments, corrections or additional material related to any of the writers and artists featured in our series of mini-bios are welcomed. Please use the comments feature at the bottom of individual posts, or email us.
Tony Burton’s books include “Lake Chapala: A Postcard History” (2022), “Foreign Footprints in Ajijic” (2022), “If Walls Could Talk: Chapala’s historic buildings and their former occupants” (2020), (available in translation as “Si Las Paredes Hablaran”), “Mexican Kaleidoscope” (2016), and “Lake Chapala Through the Ages” (2008).
I have owned three drawings from Montreal (’67 & ’75) for many years, they were bought at a flea market…I would love to know if they could be originals?
I’m not an art expert but they are likely to be originals. What a great flea market find!
Any reputable local art dealer should be able to confirm whether or not they actually are originals by taking a close look at them.
Mr. Richmond was one of my favourite instructors at OCA back in ‘77-80. We all knew of his talent as an illustrator/artist back then but he was also a very enthusiastic and passionate teacher who took us on field trips every week to junkyards all over the greater Toronto area. He was like a kid in a candy store amongst the ruins and remains in the salvage yards – he wasn’t interested in polished antiques. What great memories – I will never forget him. Great video and tribute to a great artist.
Thanks for the kind words; delighted that the post brought back such fond memories.
Just a quick correction: Lorraine Surcouf was never married to John Richmond. They lived together from 1965 until 1990, while he was still married to my mother Mary-Louise Richmond.
Thank you for that clarification; apologies for the error. The post has been reworded to reflect your comment.
Do you happen to know when and why he first visited Ajijic, and how many years he visited?