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Frederick Coates was born September 27, 1890 in Nottingham, England, the son of Frederick Charles and Abigail Dexter Coates. He was the eldest of four children. Around 1909 he attended Nottingham School of Art where he took courses in drawing and architectural history. After travelling to Paris, he returned to London in 1911 to enroll in the Royal College of Art where he received three years of instruction in sculpture and modelling in the space of a year, graduating as a sculptor. Fred emigrated to Canada in 1913 settling in Toronto and shared a studio with a few other Toronto sculptors. In 1916, he enlisted as a private in the No. 2 Canadian Army Medical Corps as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and served at the Westcliffe Eye and Ear Hospital at Folkestone and at the Queen's Hospital in Sidcup. His talent as a sculptor was employed in constructing plaster models from photographs of a patient's face before and afterinjury. Doctors used these models to reconstruct faces disfigured by war injuries.
Following his discharge from the service in 1919, he returned to Toronto. His work as sculptor and model maker led to his work with theatre groups, such as Hart House Theatre at the University of Toronto. In 1922-23 he prepared designs for costumes and stage settings. The success of this undertaking led to his appointment as Art Director for the Theatre. In 1922 he married Louise Brown (b. 1889), a talented painter and graduate of the Ontario College of Art. He returned as Art Director of Hart House Theatre for the 1929-1930 season. After resigning as Art Director he went on to teach model making at the School of Architecture at the University. He remained as a part-time instructor until his retirement in 1962.
Frederick Coates and his wife, Louise Brown Coates lived for many years in their house overlooking the Scarborough Bluffs. Frederick Coates died in June 1965 and his wife, Louise, died in 1975. They willed their property to the University of Toronto in trust for the establishment of a scholarship at the Faculty of Architecture.
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- For more detailed account of the life and work of Frederick Coates see "The stuff dreams are made of. The art and design of Frederick and Louise Coates" (Toronto: University of Toronto Library, 1996.)