Born in Toronto, Ontario, the daughter of artist and teacher, Gustav Hahn, she received her academic education at Havergal College (1917-1927) and at the University of Toronto (1928). She then studied at the Ontario College of Art (1929-32) under her father (for design), J.W. Beatty (landscape), Archibald Barnes (portraits) and others. l She was awarded a Governor General’s Medal for her achievement in her graduating year at the College (1932). Skilful in metal work, handicrafts, wood engraving, and painting she joined the staff of the Royal Ontario Museum in 1934 where she did identification drawings for the Museum’s catalogue and from 1935 to 1946 completed 11 murals for the Display Department of the Museum. She also made models of jewels in the Museum’s collection which were sold at the sales desk. She continues to work for the Museum especially with the Display Department where she has recently completed a reproduction of a mural originally on the walls of an Etruscan tomb (c. 470 B.C.). The late Pearl McCarthy 3 noted the mural as follows, “Sylvia Hahn has done a beautiful job in drawing the figures and generally reproducing the classic elegance of this famous work. An attempt has been made to reproduce the colours as they would have been before air and moisture faded them. Museum authorities say the pigments of the original painting seem to have been those generally used in Mediterranean countries in ancient times. . . .Miss Hahn has used oils. The mural brings a sense of life to the Etruscan gallery. . . .” Miss Hahn has done much of the decorating in the Athens Gallery of the Museum including detail work on a model of the Acropolis (tiling the tiny roofs and adding colours to the model) and other details in the room in cooperation with Mrs. Franz Leipen. She has done altarpieces for various churches including: The Chapel of The Society of St. John The Evangelist at Bracebridge, Ontario; The Lady Chapel and The Chapel of the Holy Child St. Mary Magdelene, Toronto; The R.C.A.F. Chapel, Aylmer, Ontario; Victoria College Chapel (U. of T.) Toronto, and more recently stone sculpture for St. Augustine of Canterbury Church, Toronto, and much of the decoration of St. Philip’s Church, Toronto. She was Instructor in metal work for the University of Toronto’s Occupational Therapy course and Instructor in General Handicrafts at the Northern Vocational School. She began exhibiting with the Society of Canadian Painter-Etchers and Engravers in 1934 and was elected a member in 1936. She is well known for her wood engravings and woodcuts. She illustrated (engravings) The Four Heads Lyre a book of Swedish poems by Lars von Hartnn (translated by Doris Speirs)4 A Naturalist’s Guide To Ontario.5 Sylvia Hahn lives in Toronto where she continues to work in a wide range of media.
Excerpted from A Dictionary of Canadian Artists. Colin S. MacDonald. Vol. 2 p. 342. 1982.