René Cera’s Mural Painting “Pied Piper’s All” (1969) is Returning to St. Michael’s College


“Pied Pipers All” by René Cera (1895 – 1992)

René Cera’s Dance of Media Seduction

René Alexandre Paul Cera was born in Nice, France, on April 15, 1895. An artist from the start, his biography describes him delivering messages to Renoir, sketching with Matisse while studying art and architecture at the Nice School of Art. Tasked to carry messages from the school’s director to Pierre August Renoir, Cera later stated that “Renoir was a genius but by the time I met him, he was almost crippled by rheumatism and was painting with the brush strapped to his fingers.”

He came to Canada in 1928 to take charge of architectural design for Canada’s largest department store chain, T. Eaton Company, for one year. But he remained in Canada for 32 years, during which time in 1969 he created “Pied Pipers All” as a mural for Marshall McLuhan’s Centre for Culture and Technology. It was his take on “the medium is the message” and the siren call of electronic media, especially television, as a one-eyed dance of seduction and perturbation.

In 1979 after Marshall McLuhan suffered a stroke, which ended his teaching career, the University of Toronto closed his Centre for Culture and Technology, despite international and local protests and appeals. Cera’s mural was cut into 3 sections, thereby making it a triptych, which was stored in a barn in the country. Due to continuing appeals from McLuhan supporters that included Buckminster Fuller, Tom Wolfe, Woody Allen and Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau the Centre was reopened in 1983 as the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology.

Today the painting has been refurbished and will be restored to public view at St. Michael’s College with the unveiling scheduled for Thursday, October 13 at 5:30 PM at the start of the International Toronto School of Communication conference (see below).




PLACE: Brennan Hall, St. Michael’s College, 81 St. Mary Street, Toronto              

DATE & TIME: Thursday, October 13 at 5:30 PM

To be followed at 6:00 PM by Lectio Magistralis
Paul Elie on “The Makings of a Spirituality of Technology:
Glenn Gould, Marshall McLuhan, and ‘Electronic Participation'”
Reception to follow (John M. Kelly Library, 113 St. Joseph Street, Toronto)

Paul Elie is a senior fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University and the author of The Life You Save May Be Your Own (2003). He writes for Vanity Fair, The New York Times, Commonweal, The Atlantic,, and He lives in Brooklyn.
Registration required

Photograph of Professors Arthur Porter and Marshall McLuhan, with artist René Cera, admiring Cera’s mural PIED PIPER ALL, Centre for Culture and Technology, University of Toronto, 1969. Photograph by Robert Lansdale
Professors Arthur Porter and Marshall McLuhan, with artist René Cera, admiring Cera’s mural “Pied Pipers All,” the Centre for Culture and Technology, University of Toronto, 1969. Photograph by Robert Lansdale
For the symbolism of the Pied Piper of Hamelin see the story upon which the Grimm brothers based their tale:

From “An Artist of the Highest Order: René Cera of Lenox”     

After Cera retired, he spent most of his time painting. Among several large murals dating from this period was “Pied Pipers All,” which he created for the late Marshall McLuhan’s Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. This work echoes McLuhan’s sentiment: ”The media is the message.”

An article written in the August, 1971 issue of Mademoiselle mentioned the mural but attributes it to someone else. McLuhan corrected this misconception, writing, ”The 9′ by 12′ mural in the seminar room was not made by Buckminster Fuller, but René Cera, a French painter and architect. The theme of the painting is ”T.V. in Action” with the tube in the centre and the psychedelic images surrounding it. The title is “Pied Pipers All” since Cera saw that the tube was alienating the young from a generation of elders who had no thought of paying the piper for the latest technological caper”. McLuhan continued, ‘‘This is a splendid and impressive painting by a great craftsman whose prolific work has been bottled up in Canada.”

McLuhan and Cera were friends, together with McLuhan’s wife Corinne and Betty Trott, whom Cera married in 1966. (Mrs. Cera now uses the name “Liz.”) In a letter dated January 22, 1952, McLuhan wrote, “Cera just left. He brought over one of his best pictures to us. Had made the frame himself specially … He is a lot of fun. Very, very lively and facetiously egotistical in his talk. A walking mass of contradictions, paradoxes and conundrums which he likes to tumble out for everybody’s amusement.” (Access the full biographical pdf article at )

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