The Herald Painter: A. Scott Carter

A. Scott Carter, R.C.A.

By R.G.M. Macpherson
Originally published in Heraldry in Canada, September, 1990

Alexander Scott Carter, one of Canada's pre-eminent heraldic artists, was born at Harrow, Middlesex, England in 1881. He studied art before graduating as an architect from the Polytechnic in London and practised in that field before coming to Toronto in 1912.

He became a member of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and specialized in architectural decoration and heraldic ornament. It is largely for his work in the art of heraldry that Scott Carter was acclaimed throughout Canada, the United States and England, as one of the outstanding artists of his time. In fact, it can be argued that few, if any, to this day, have ever captured that true spirit of heraldic art in the same manner and degree of excellence that he achieved.

I first met Mr. Carter in 1946 while still at school in Toronto and he was most kind and gracious to a self-taught artist who admired his work enormously. He was a very distinguished man with a small white moustache, very properly attired in English tweeds and with the unmistakable air of a scholar.

My study of his work began by my paying frequent visits to the Great Hall of Hart House to make countless sketches of his lions. And what magnificent lions they are! No one, in my opinion, seemed to accomplish with such amazing success that abstraction of the essential quality of a lion which was so typical of Scott Carter's style. If you have an opportunity to visit Hart House and examine the arms of the universities of the world, you cannot fail to be impressed by the lion on the shields of Lyons and Liege. Here is portrayed no sleepy or spiritless lion but rather a thin, hungry animal with long pointed claws and ferocity depicted on his countenance. A lion that expresses eagerness, fierceness, vigour and calculated, with mediaeval artistic skill, to strike awe into the heart of the spectator.

One other example of Scott Carter's lions may be found on the stone carvings on the Soldier's Tower beside Hart House, University of Toronto. There is a superb rendition of the Arms of England with beautifully proportioned lions, full of power and spirit. On the south wall there is another example of a single lion rampant which is really quite outstanding, While on the subject of Hart House, attention should be drawn to Mr. Carter's beautiful heraldic may in the Common Room. For splendid colour and magnificent design, there is nothing quite like it anywhere.

At Simcoe Hall, just across the campus, there is a very attractive carving in full colour of the Arms of John Graves Simcoe, which is certainly worth a visit. Trinity College contains numerous illustrations of Scott Carter's artistry and possibly my favourite is a large mural of the Royal Arms above the gallery in the dining hall.

Another magnificent mural executed by Mr. Carter was found in the main entrance foyer of the old Imperial Bank building at the south-east corner of King and Bay in Toronto. The mural included a large representation of the Royal Arms in the centre, surrounded by an ornate floral border which displayed the arms of the provinces. Alas, the building was demolished about 25 years ago and apparently the mural could not be saved.

Among Scott Carter's many heraldic works, special mention should be made of the Book of Remembrance which records the names of employees of the Bank of Nova Scotia who gave their lives in two world wars. This book may be seen at the bank's main office, King and Bay Streets in Toronto.

In addition, the following examples are worth recording:

Scott Carter was elected A.R.C.A. in 1922 and R.C.A. in 1927. He died in 1968.


Royal Arms University of Toronto Queen's University King's College, Halifax

Acadia University University of Ottawa University of Manitoba University of British Columbia

Oxford University Cambridge University University of London University of Bristol

University of Birmingham Sheffield University University of Dublin University of Belfast

University of Malta University of the Cape of Good Hope University of Bombay University of Hong Kong


Note: indicates the arms having been restored to date on this project.

For an account of the restoration project at Hart House, click

Hart House Heraldic Restoration needs Your Support

The Great Hall at Hart House, University of Toronto, houses one of the most important and distinguished armorial displays in Canada. The south wall of the Hall features the arms of the 51 degree-granting universities of the British Empire as of 1919, and the north wall the arms of 74 universities from countries allied with Canada during WWI. The artistic mastery of the legendary Alexander Scott Carter, the shields are lavishly gessoed, painted and gilded on oak panels. After more than 80 years, the shields are in need of expert restoration if they are to be preserved for future generations. An investment of $120,000 needs to be made to protect this national treasure. To date $56,000 has been donated to the project and work is underway on the south wall. To complete this important project, Hart House needs the support of those who value the artistry and the history embodied in this truly exceptional armorial display. To support the project, call Hart House Advancement at 416-946-0465, or log on to

Copyright © 2004 Royal Heraldry Society of Canada
Released: August 19, 2004 / Updated: January 3, 2010