June 18, 2017 marked the 25th Anniversary of the official opening of the 1.2 hectare Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg. Below is an article by Luba Fedorkiw, which appeared in the June issue of Ukrainian Winnipeg about the life of Leo Mol and the creation of this unique artistic landmark.
You can view the article as it appeared in the magazine by clicking here:
Born Leonid (Hryhorijevich) Molodozhanyn on January 15, 1915 in the village of Polonne, Ukraine to a long line of family potters,* and at his father’s side and within the community, Leonid apprenticed and acquired the craft of modeling clay, using the potter’s wheel and firing clay, to create ceramics.
Breaking from tradition, Leonid decided that he wanted to study painting in Vienna, Austria. At age 15, he became fluent in German and exposed himself to the rich history of world art, music and theater, while working with sculptor Frans Klimsh, who specialized in plasticine and terra cotta. The talented youth was accepted into Kunst Akademie [Berlin, Germany].* His formal art education was at the Leningrad Academy of Arts. He married his wife Margareth in 1943. By 1945 both resettled in Holland, where he changed his name to Leo Mol (nom de plume). Leo attended the Academy of Art in The Hague.*
Leonid Molodozhanyn and his wife immigrated to Canada in 1948, at a time when Canada needed farmers not artists. Mol persuaded the reluctant immigration officer in the Hague that he would be an asset to Canada, since his sponsors were grain farmers and he originated from a humble farming village in Ukraine.
Arriving at Hudson Bay Junction near Prince Albert, Saskatchewan during a harsh winter on the Canadian prairies was a stark awakening in itself. Mol looked for immediate work and found it in Winnipeg, where he befriended Yakiw Maydanyk , also a painter, cartoonist and teacher. Initially, the newly naturalized artist assisted Maydanyk in painting and decorating the interiors of churches.
Local success for this soft spoken artist/sculptor gained momentum through his talents as a figurine artist, focusing on Canadian themes in ceramic. Further, his 1950s modeling originals in terra cotta and baked in a kiln, gained him the respected recognition of his fellow Manitoba artists. As he advanced his art, he received major commissions from:1) the Canadian government 2) the Provincial governments of Manitoba and Alberta, 3) The University of Manitoba, 4) international universities, 5) Churches, 6) Communities and 7) private sponsors.
International success arrived with Leo Mol’s magnificent executions of classic portrait sculpture. “His understanding of and portraying the essence of each subject, led to major commissioned portraits”** placed in capitals of the world.
In his extensive collection, illustrious are the portrait busts of prominent people such as: Prime Minister J. Diefenbaker, Dwight E. Eisenhower, Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II, Pope Paul VI, Pope John XXII, Pope John Paul II, Cardinals Slipyj and Tisserant, the Group of Seven painters – A.Y. Jackson, Fred Varley and A.J. Casson. Additionally, he created monuments to Ukraine’s beloved poet/bard Taras Shewchenko, located in Washington, D.C., Buenos Aires, Argentina and Prudentpolis, Brasil.
In addition, Leo Mol’s priceless art is housed in permanent collections in North America, international museums/galleries, private and corporate collections. There are over ninety (90) magnificent stained glass windows inside Winnipeg churches, most notably, the Metropolitan Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral of Sts. Vladimir and Olga (1959-70) which feature the detailed masterpieces celebrating the Christian inheritance . Other significant locations include: St. Demetrios Orthodox Church, Winnipeg, (1982), Holy Cross Parish, St. Boniface (1964), Westworth United Church, Winnipeg,(1959), St. Patrick’s Anglican Church, Winnipeg (1961) and too many to list.
Dr. Leo Mol received multiple honours. He was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada (1989), the Order of the Buffalo Hunt (1997), Order of Manitoba (2000). Additionally, he received: 1) Honorary Degrees from the University of Winnipeg (1974), Alberta (1985), Manitoba (1988) and Sudbury (2002), 2) Laureate of Excellence, Health Sciences Foundation (1995), 3) Citizens Hall of Fame (1998) and 4) well more than 25 distinguished acknowledgements of honor.
Leo Mol generously donated his personal collection of 300 pieces of art which included paintings, sculptures, drawings and ceramics to the City of Winnipeg, on condition, a sculpture garden be built in Assiniboine Park to display his work.
June 18, 2017 marks the 25th Anniversary of the official opening of the 1.2 hectare Leo Mol Sculpture Garden. It comprises a gallery, outdoor display of sculptures, School House Studio where visitors can view the creation of a bronze sculpture and a sitting area.
Very European in appeal, the natural ambience and calm retreat provides the opportunity to pause and reflect on the talent of an humble artist and his craft. The magnificent statue of a Hutzul playing his trembita (trumpet) welcomes visitors to rediscover and appreciate the gift of one man who loved Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Carpathia Credit Union and the Wasyl Topolnicky Memorial Foundation proudly contributed/sponsored to the sculpture garden collection, specifically, the cultural icons of “Taras Shewchenko”, “Haydamaky”, the “Trumpeter” and the “Blind Bandurist” that represent the profound rooted Ukrainian culture.
As we commemorate the 125th Anniversary of Ukrainian immigration to Canada, let us proudly and respectfully re-acknowledge the prominence and significance of Leo Mol’s contribution to the tapestry of our Canadian Ukrainian culture and history. Let his legacy of art remind us of his remarkable talent.
On June 18th let us wear our Ukrainian best and with our families, find time to visit Leo Mol’s Sculpture Garden in Assiniboine Park and honor his memory – an internationally acclaimed sculptor.
Leonid Molodozhanyn died on July 4, 2009 at the age of 94.
“Leo Mol was one of Manitoba’s brightest stars. Through his work, he gave the Manitoba art world a gift that will enrich our province for generations.” Hon. Eric Robinson, Minister of Culture and Heritage ***