Toller Cranston - Artist Photo

Toller Cranston

Artist Summary

Toller Shalitoe Montague Cranston, (April 20, 1949 – January 24, 2015) was a widely acclaimed Canadian figure skater and lifetime painter, who always considered himself an artist first and a skater second.

Full Biography

Toller Montague Cranston (1949-2015) had the distinction of being an internationally acclaimed Canadian painter and Olympic athlete and a Member of the Order of Canada. As an athlete and artist, he was disciplined, focused and committed to excellence.

Inspired by stories, legends, magic and destiny, Toller’s works are rich in Russian, Mexican, and Canadian images and influences—­floating skaters, ­­exotic courtesans, and extraordinary settings. The vivid colours and fantastical creatures are drawn from Toller’s imagination. His original works are sought by international collectors and his paintings have been featured in more than 250 exhibitions around the world. He also designed huge metal and glass chandeliers, woven rugs and upholstery fabrics. Toller’s formal art education was halted due to the rigorous demands of his training and competition schedule, but he always considered himself an artist first.

As a figure skater, Toller revolutionized the sport and impacted generations of skaters by expressing new dimensions of artistry and emotion. He was the six-time Canadian National Champion (1971-76), World Bronze Medalist (1974), and Olympic Bronze Medalist (1976). He was named Skater of the Century by the European press , is a member of the World Figure Skating Hall of Fame and ensured that Canada would always have a place on the podium of World figure skating.

Toller expressed his artistry in his lifestyle, and as a writer, raconteur, decorator and television personality. He shared his knowledge of art and art history by introducing fellow skaters to museums and galleries as they toured major cities throughout the world. He held painting workshops for Mexican youth, to teach, inspire and empower. He shared his studio in San Miguel with aspiring painters, supporting and encouraging them by buying and exhibiting their work.

Throughout his life Toller faced challenges and adversities—being told at the age of 15 he would never skate again, he couldn’t bring artistry, emotion and expression to men’s skating, that he couldn’t take figure skating to Broadway and that he’d never make a living from his art. But he did all of these things. He became a World and Olympic medalist and is internationally acknowledged as the man who revolutionized the sport. He headlined theatrical ice shows and sold out the Palace Theatre and Radio City Music Hall. Over the past four decades his paintings have been sought by international collectors. Toller rose beyond what is expected, beyond what is accepted, beyond what is “normal.”

He was fearless in expression, courageous in creativity, and innovative in interpretation. Toller had a determination, dedication and a desire to go where no skater had gone before. He lived life on his terms. He found his way of being in the world and staying true to himself. He was funny, generous, brave, and creative, frail, adventurous and daring.

Toller Cranston passed away at the age of 65 in his studio in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. His tombstone in San Miguel simply says Toller, Artist, 1949-2015.

Skating Achievements

· Three-time World Free Skating Champion

· World Professional Figure Skater of the Year, 1988

· Olympic Figure Skating Bronze Medalist, Innsbruck, 1976

· World Figure Skating Bronze Medalist, 1974

· Six-time Canadian Champion, 1970-1976

· Skate Canada International Champion, 1973 and 1975

· Gold Medal, Canada Winter Games, 1967

Awards & Honours

· Honorary Degree LL.D., Carleton University, 2011

· Visiting Artist, Harvard University, 1984-85

· Member of the Order of Canada, 1977

· Canadian Athlete of the Year, 1975

· Canada’s Walk of Fame, 2003

· Canadian Figure Skating Hall of Fame. 1997

· Canada Sports Hall of Fame, 1977

· Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, 1976

· Skate Canada Hall of Fame, 1997

· Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, 1996

· World Figure Skating Hall of Fame, 2004

· Sports Federation Athlete of the Year, 1974

· Special Olympic Order, Canadian Olympic Association, 1995

· Order of Merit, City of Toronto, 1988

· ACTRA Award

· ANIK Award

· Montreux Award


· Created and starred on Broadway in The Ice Show at the Palace Theatre and at Radio City Music Hall.

· Created and starred in TV specials including Dream Weaver (1979), Magic Planet (1983), The True Gift of Christmas (1985), and most notably Strawberry Ice, (1982) the multiple award-winning CBC special that was sold to 67 countries.

· Performed in North America, Europe, China, and Japan with Ice Capades and Holiday on Ice.

· Regular Performances in Stars on Ice and The Big Show.

· Regular competitor at the World Professional Figure Skating Championships.

· Guest judge for Battle of the Blades.

· Official Artist of Skate Canada, 2013.

· Non-skating acting appearance in I Am a Hotel (1983), a music video featuring songs by Leonard Cohen.

· Appeared on the back cover of Joni Mitchell’s album Hejira.


Toller, 1976, number two in the Canadian non-fiction charts.

A Ram on the Rampage, 1977.

Zero Tollerance: An Intimate Memoir by the Man Who Revolutionized Figure Skating  (1997) with Martha Lowder Kimball.

When Hell Freezes Over: Should I Bring My Skates? 2000, with Martha Lowder Kimball.

Ice Cream: Thirty of the Most Interesting Skaters in History, 2002.

The Nutcracker, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Retold by Veronica Tennant. Illustrated by Toller Cranston. 1985.

Artist’s Statement

“My paintings are exactly like my skating. Very me, good or bad. Very decorative, good or bad. And very unusual, good or bad. I am a painter first and a skater second.”  Toller Cranston