Arne Roosman was born in 1932 in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, to an artistic family. His grandfather, August Roosman, had been a printing master at the Tallinn School of Arts and Crafts between 1923 and 1932. His father, Axel was born 1899, in Tartu- a city in eastern Estonia. As a young man, Axel studied art and graphic design.
Axel Bernhard Roosman went on to study lithography in 1913 in Riga, Latvia- and later in St. Petersburg (then known as Petrograd), Russia. He returned to Estonia during the War of Independence (1918-1920) and volunteered his services as a topographer. In 1922, he studied at the Tallinn School of Art and Industry and afterward he worked at the State Printing House as a lithographer and later as freelance artist, also designing exhibition pavilions.
Axel Roosman designed front covers for many magazines, made oil and water colour paintings, designed Estonian stamps, postcards, bookplates, advertising posters and packaging. He illustrated books, created popular caricatures, and designed Estonia’s first playing cards. Axel’s younger brother Max was also an exceptionally talented Illustrator. Both his father and uncle were a profound influence on the young Arne Roosman.
In 1941, Arne, and his parents and seven siblings fled to the safety of his grandmother’s homeland in Germany. When WWII ended, the family moved on to Sweden where they had relatives. Arne studied art and learned more about the trade from his father.
In December of 1956, Arne emigrated to Canada and made Toronto his home base. In Toronto he worked as a lithographer, book designer and artist. Here, he also met and married his wife Liina and started a family. Regular visitors to Bancroft, camping in the area for over 20 years, when Arne took early retirement in 1988, he and Liina settled on the Monck Road near Cardiff.
Over the years there have been numerous exhibitions of Arne Roosman’s work. He is well-known, and much admired throughout Canada and overseas. His work is part of countless international collections. Arne’s style is unique and diverse, using a variety of mediums. A winner of many awards and commissions, since moving to Bancroft, he has also made important contributions to the Bancroft Village Playhouse where he has donated paintings and created several sets for local productions. His work is frequently shown at the Bancroft Art Galley.
In 2013, local commercial building owners, Ingrid and Burke Chamberlin commissioned a mural for the riverside wall of their building 23 Bridge Street. The building has been known for many years by the name of former owners like the Mullet and Whitfield families and although Ingrid and Burke held a contest to have the community officially name the old building, it is still known locally as the “Old Whitfield Building”.
One of Arne’s 2014 shows in Bancroft brought the attention of staff from Tartu College in Toronto. Afterward, the college commissioned his largest mural, measuring almost fifty feet for the Bloor Street Revitalization project. That mural is featured on the wall of Tartu College, at Bloor West, just east of Madison Ave. Tartu College houses the Estonian Cultural Heritage Society, the Museum of Estonian Abroad (VEMUS) and the Tartu Institute which preserves, promotes, and explains Estonian culture and includes archives and a large library.
“I see myself as a teller of tales, with a brush for a quill, sometimes bending ancient myths to suit my worldview. My output is spontaneous, drawing a passion, oil my preferred medium. Never found nor did I get stuck in what much art is about, a style, a convention or the unconventional…,” says Arne Roosman. He has also said that he finds inspiration for his work in the beauty of the natural world, human form, and music, often drawing upon mythology when he creates.
Where to find Arne Roosman’s street art in Bancroft
23 Bridge Street East (Riverside wall):
A series of panels that chronicle the history of the location as would have observed, over the years, from the vantage point of the building.
This project took six months to complete. The work was physically demanding for Roosman who, was then 81 years of age and had to climb up and down scaffolding to work on the piece. Although physically painful, stressing both Roosman’s knees and shoulders- depending on whether he was working on the upper or lower levels of a panel- the artist once said that the experience added years to his life.