Memorable Manitobans: Leo Mol (1915-2009)
Born Leonid Molodozhanyn at Polonne, Ukraine in 1915, his father, a potter, taught him to work with clay. He attended the Leningrad Academy of Arts from 1936 to 1940. When the German army invaded the Soviet Union, he was conscripted and sent to Berlin, Germany. He fled to Holland in 1945 where he continued his art training. He emigrated to Canada with his wife in 1948 and first found employment as a farmhand in Saskatchewan. They moved to Winnipeg in 1949 where he began working as a ceramic artist, church painter, and stained glass artist. He designed and built more than 80 stained glass windows for Manitoba churches, including a scene of the Last Supper in Westworth United Church in Winnipeg, and views of Ukrainian history at the Sts. Vladimir and Olga Cathedral. Other churches featuring his work include St. Patrick’s and St. Jude’s Anglican Church and Shaarey Zedek Synagogue.
He became prominent as a sculptor, producing bronzes of such subjects as Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko, William Stephenson, Tom Lamb, Frank Dojacek, Pope John Paul II, Winston Churchill, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John Diefenbaker, and Queen Elizabeth II. His work is contained in the collections of the Vatican Museum, National Portrait Gallery (Washington, DC), Art Gallery of Ontario, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and Winnipeg Art Gallery. The Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park contains numerous pieces of his work which he donated to the city, as well as his Schoolhouse Studio.
Considered a role model for Ukrainian Canadians, in the 1970s and ‘80s, he served on the board of Oseredok, the Ukrainian Cultural and Educational Centre in Winnipeg. In recognition of his many contributions to the arts, Mol was inducted into the Order of Canada (1989), Winnipeg Citizens Hall of Fame (1990), Order of the Buffalo Hunt (1997), and Order of Manitoba (2000). He was given honorary degrees by the University of Winnipeg (1974) and University of Manitoba (1988).
He died at Winnipeg on 4 July 2009.
“Incredibly talented, humble,” Winnipeg Free Press, 7 July 2009, page A4.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 3 May 2020
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