Fred Hagan left school early to help support his family. While he worked a string of semi-skilled factory jobs by day, his growing interest in art led him to evening classes in drawing and painting. At the age of nineteen, Hagan took to the streets of Toronto with brushes, oil paints, small plywood panels and near boundless energy to capture the colour, bustle and unfolding drama of his immediate neighbourhood. In an unheated garage-turned-studio he expanded his street work onto large canvases. To mark his success, in 1939 four of his drawings were selected to be hung at the New York World’s Fair. Additionally, after studying at the Ontario College of Art under Franklin Carmichael and John Alfsen in the early 1940’s, Hagan began exhibiting with The Royal Canadian Academy at the age of 21.
In 1941 Hagan received the opportunity to teach arts and crafts at Pickering College in Newmarket, where he eventually settled down to live with his Toronto sweetheart, Isabelle Heald. By 1946 he became faculty at the Ontario College of Art, where he taught lithography for almost four decades. The long summer months at his home in Newmarket, away from the College, were a time for his own pursuits and passions. He recorded his family, friends and the country life in his paintings, providing a fascinating social commentary on life in Ontario in the 1940s.
Frederick Hagan’s career as a painter, lithographer, watercolourist, and art instructor spanned more than seven decades and inspired generations of emerging young artists. He is not specifically affiliated with a particular art movement or school of thought, but rather his work has been described as autobiographical. Hagan’s long and impressive career has awarded him placement in the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and many other important collections.