(Ronald) York Wilson was born in Toronto on December 6, 1907. He first started as a commercial artist, working at Sampson-Matthews alongside Group of Seven members, Franklin Carmichael and A.J. Casson, and was able to develop skills in a variety of media.
His transition to fine art began in the 1930’s as he worked at various art agencies and frequently visited museums and galleries through Canada and the United States. This shift in career was fully achieved in 1949 during a trip to Mexico. Wilson was highly inspired by the distinct light and intense colour of the region, and thus used the landscape as a visual stimulant for his canvases and compositions.
Following this trip, Wilson and his wife lived and traveled through Europe and the Middle East, and also purchased a house in San Miguel de Allende. The couple continued traveling and returned to Toronto in 1982. His work primarily consisted of abstract images during this period, taken from a live background and abstracted with a distinct geometric style of painting.
Wilson is also recognized for his series of prominent public murals, dating from the mid-1940s to the mid-1970s. He executed murals for Imperial Oil, the O’Keefe Centre for the Performing Arts (now the Hummingbird Centre), Bell Canada, the Ontario government at Queen's Park and Carleton University, where Buckminster Fuller unveiled his mural PEACE.
Wilson's work was well received internationally, especially in France and Italy. In 1961 Wilson was invited by the French government to mount a one-man exhibition in a Paris gallery of his choosing, and in 1981 he was asked to paint a self-portrait for the permanent collection at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
York Wilson died in 1984 at the age of 76.