Saturday, 4 February 2023

History Corner ~ January 2023 by John Lover

This month’s subject brings us up to relatively recent times, although our Club’s longest serving active member, Christine Gollner, is the only one of our present number to remember him personally. Certainly, as an established administrator and educator in the world of art, and a reputable practising artist, John Climer seems to have been well respected for his stature in our Club.

John Eldon Climer was born in 1924 in Syracuse, New York. After serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force (1943-1946), he studied at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, receiving his Associate Diploma in 1950. 

From 1951 to 1957, he worked in several communities in Ontario as an advisor for community art recreation programs, and later, based in Ottawa from 1958 to 1963, as an organizer and producer of the Lakeside Festival of the Arts in that city.

Climer’s next move was to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, where he served as curator and director of the distinguished Mendel Art Gallery from 1963 to 1979. During this time, he also spent a year teaching art at the University of Saskatchewan and curating the Canadian Government Pavilion in Montreal for Expo 67. In his role as curator at the Mendel Art Gallery, Climer became well acquainted with the Saskatchewan arts community, working with, and mentoring, local artists.

A gifted artist in his own right, he exhibited his work across Canada in both group and solo shows, and he is represented in the collections of the Government of Saskatchewan 
and the Mendel Art Gallery in Saskatoon. He worked in a variety of media, including oil, watercolour, and etching, and with a variety of subjects including landscapes and still life.

As Climer expressed his philosophy: “My subject, I would like to think, is the medium, and how it may be exploited with reference to what my statement might be.”

Moving on again, this time to British Columbia, he became well-known for his art instruction courses during the 1980s. In the winter months his routine was to encourage his students to continue with their painting here while he enjoyed the warmer climes down south. Students’ work would be critiqued on his return. As Delphine Large, one of his many successful proteges later recalled, “He had remarkable perception in noting the art student’s direction.”

During his association with our Club in these years, members were clearly able to benefit from his influence and his presence as an advisor and exemplar of the practice and theory of art. Christine remembers that he attended many of the summer outings and contributed to annual shows with many of his small paintings.     

Sadly, this period proved to be relatively short-lived, as John Climer died in 1994 while wintering in Yuma, Arizona.

Saturday, 3 December 2022

November History Corner ~ by John Lover

One of the many contacts we made during our Centennial year was with the Hobbs family in Gabriola Island. Dave Hobbs was able to give us valuable information about his mother whose fascinating association with the Island Arts and Crafts Society and the reborn Victoria Sketch Club spanned over half a century.

Isobel Mary Oldfield was born in Ashill, Norfolk, England, in 1885. Both her parents were artists, and she achieved an art teachers’ certificate at the South Kensington School of Art, London. She became proficient in a wide range of media, including oils and watercolour painting, stained glass and ceramics. Additionally, in 1913, her pencil sketching prowess won her an Award of Merit in a British national competition.

After teaching in England, she came to Victoria on a visit in 1914. Unable to obtain a teaching post without a Canadian degree, she took a job as a companion-housekeeper, and during this time met her future husband, Captain S. Morgan Hobbs. The couple were married at the end of the World War I, and moved into James Bay where they met their intriguing neighbour who ran a rooming-house called “The House of All Sorts.” This was Isobel’s introduction to Emily Carr, with whom she was to establish a life-long friendship, and during which time they combined to write “The House of All Sorts.”

As her children grew, Isobel found time for painting classes and formed another friendship with Josephine Crease, an established artist. It was in 1919 in the gardens of “Pentrelew,” the Crease family home, that Susan Crease introduced Isobel as a prospective member of the Island Arts and Crafts Society to its President, Dr. Edward Hassell. The new bride from England became a Society member the same year.

Isobel went on to be a frequent contributor to IACS exhibitions up to 1941, and was to acquire the name of “The Dogwood Lady,”  perhaps because of her botanical interests.  She displayed her work at the Vancouver Art Gallery exhibitions in 1933, 1939 and 1945, and enjoyed a solo exhibition in Victoria in 1938.

Isobel was noted for practicing an “oil on wood” technique, allowing paint to run through the grain of wood panels, although she was also a very capable watercolourist and sketcher. Her dogwood paintings became widely renowned, and a sketch of her friend Emily Carr was signed and donated to the Art Gallery. 

Her friendship with Emily never faltered, although she portrayed the great lady as “very kind-hearted with a terrible temper.” Their incessant arguments about painting wildlife could reach levels of high comedy. Isobel had an impression of peace and quiet in the woods and took issue with the Emily’s penchant for “painting trees on the move.”  

In 1944 Isobel joined Ina Uhthoff and Will Menelaws in piloting efforts toward the “Little Centre,” a step towards the establishment of a permanent art gallery in Victoria. Isobel had sat at the bedside of Emily during her friend’s last days in 1945, who fittingly sent a letter to the group praising them for pursuing a cause which had always been close to her heart.
Isobel acted with other IACS veterans in beginning life anew with the Sketch Club in 1952, and she was made a Victoria Sketch Club life member in 1967. As octogenarian, she was unable to paint due to a state of near blindness. However, she had developed finger painting to a fine art and was awarded a solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria at the behest of its first Director, Colin Graham.

Isobel Hobbs spent her final years in Nanaimo, where she died in 1974.

Monday, 31 October 2022

Artist of the Week series

What's up with Artist of the Week?
This is a great opportunity to showcase members' art on social media including Facebook and Instagram – we have accounts with each one.
How can I participate?
If you'd like to participate, please send 3 to 5 photos of your art + bio/artists statement (no more than 3 sentences) to Vicky T, Communications Director @ or directly to Vicky (see newsletter)
Because it's an excellent way to highlight your work to online viewers; it is also great advertising for our Club and upcoming show.
Let’s see lots of participation for this initiative in 2022-2023!
~ Vicky T

History Corner ~ October 2022 by John Lover

Among the audience at the launch of our History Book at Abkhazi Gardens in 2008 was the late Moira Anderson and her family. This lady, a former book shop owner, was well known in Victoria’s cultural circles. She subsequently produced a watercolour painting, rather faded, but interestingly showing a view of Mai (Todd) Gillespie’s garden, next door to Abkhazi Gardens. 

The artist in question was Maude Paget, and Moira was keen to know about Maude’s contribution to our Club’s annual exhibitions. We were happy to investigate.

Maude de Kirkby Paget was born in 1874 in Penrith, England, where she attended the Carlisle School of Art prior to her family’s emigration to Canada in 1891, where she continued her interest in art. 

While living in Souris, Manitoba, Maude became acquainted with her contemporary Nellie McClung, the well-known pioneering feminist, and was commissioned to illustrate the cover of McClung’s autobiography, “Clearing in the West; My Own Story.” 

Trained in commercial art, Maude was an artist for the Hudson’s Bay Company in Winnipeg and Spenser’s Department Store in Vancouver.

In 1920 she arrived in Victoria where she was to spend most of her life. The same year she became a member of the Island Art and Crafts Society and contributed 11 paintings to its annual exhibition. She went on exhibit with the Society every year up to 1928.

Maude became well known for her miniatures and exhibited in jury shows at the Vancouver Art Gallery an also featured in the BC Artists Christmas exhibition at the Gallery in 1933 and 1934. She received numerous commissions for her miniatures until eye strain obliged her to turn to portraiture and landscape painting, at which she was equally adept and able to contribute to the arts community by painting portraits of local socialites and local scenes. 

Maude Paget died in Victoria in 1967, where her obituary in the local papers included the words, “Miniatures, My Forte.”  Her gravestone lies in the Royal Oak Burial Park Cemetery.

Monday, 10 October 2022

History Corner ~ September 2022 by John Lover

 In a previous History Corner of October 2020, featuring members of our Club who were practicing architects, there was an omission of sufficient significance and interest to be made good this time.

William Jacobus (Jacques) Semeyn was born in Grouw, the Netherlands, in 1890. He inherited the hereditary title of Baron, reportedly bestowed on his family by Prince William of Orange. He trained as an architect in Amsterdam where he practiced for five years before emigrating to Canada, making his way to Vancouver by train.

Arriving in Victoria in 1908, he worked with Samuel Maclure who was by that time operating an established and well-respected architectural practice in the city. Like Maclure, Semeyn was a talented artist, and together with his fellow architect, he became a founder member of the Island Arts Club in 1909.

He first exhibited his artwork at the second annual show of the Club in 1911, contributing three modern decorative designs in oil. Two watercolours in the 1920 exhibition illustrated his versatility, and the 1921 show catalogue listed him as “Instructor in design and interior decoration.” In 1922, he was commissioned to illustrate Alfred Carmichael’s book, “Indian Legends of Vancouver Island,” which described the customs and habits of west coast indigenous peoples (see illustration above).  

After his association with Maclure, Semeyn started his own practice and later partnered the English born architect Karl Spurgin before resuming his independence. He registered with the Architectural Institute of British Columbia, retiring as an architect in 1950. Over his career, he experimental with several different styles. One of his best-known creations was the Tweedsmuir Mansions Apartments overlooking Beacon Hill Park, containing Victoria’s first modern “penthouse,” and described in Segger and Franklin’s seminal work on local architecture as “a white stucco butterfly-plan building in the Moderne tradition.” (see illustration). 

In the late 1930s, Semeyn married Yvette Cross, sister of W.H. Cross, a businessman who had led the financing of the Uplands development prior to  World War II. The couple lived in the family home named “Valrose”, commissioned by Cross in 1915 and today recognized for its heritage value. Semeyn was to reside there until his tragic death in 1952 when, according to his death certificate, he was found drowned after a fall from a boat in Maple Bay.