Wednesday, 31 August 2022

History Corner ~ August 2022 by John Lover

Ella Susan Gibson, born in Collingborne, Wiltshire, England, in 1894, was typical of a class of British-born artists who fitted seamlessly into the ranks of our Club in its early years. However, she also represented the smaller number of the Island Arts and Society members who helped bridge its transition into the Victoria Sketch Club. 

Susan had shown artistic talent at an early age and attended Schools of Animal Painting in London and Paris, also exhibiting at the Winchester Art Exhibition.

Upon moving to Canada, Susan joined the Vernon branch of the Okanagan Artists League in British Columbia. As a talented painter, both in watercolours and oils, she also became a member of the Island Arts and Craft Society, while still residing in Vernon. She first exhibited at the Society’s annual show in 1925, showing two oil paintings, and became a regular contributor up to 1938.   

In the Society’s collection shown at the Willows Fair exhibition in 1927, her watercolour technique was recognized by the Daily Colonist art critic for its  “illustration of fine movement and tonal gradations.” That same year, art critic Francis Holland found her work at the Society’s annual exhibition to show “tendencies towards the impressionist school.” She exhibited at the BC Provincial Exhibition in 1928, and the Canadian Society of Painters in Toronto. 

In 1954 she joined what was now the Victoria Sketch Club, and again became a regular contributor to the Club’s annual shows. Elected President in 1959, she presided over the events of that year which were organized to celebrate the Club’s fiftieth anniversary. Susan introduced Phyllis Ross, wife of BC Lieutenant-Governor Frank MacKenzie Ross, to open that year’s annual show.

Susan Gibson was made a life member of the Victoria Sketch Club in 1979. She died in Victoria in 1984.

Tuesday, 23 August 2022

History Corner ~ July 2022 by John Lover


History Corner
by John Lover
Members who attended the reception for our Government House exhibition will recall the reference made by curator Martin Segger to Club member Archie Fairbairn and his connection to Government House. Martin was also kind enough to let Nirmala photograph a Fairbairn painting in the Government House collection.

Archibald MacDonald Duff Fairbairn was born in 1883 in East London, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa, where he articled as a law student and qualified as an attorney-at-law. Arriving in Canada in 1913, he secured a post with the provincial government of British Columbia.

A talented freelance artist, he painted in watercolour, tempera and oil, as well as drawing in pen and ink and charcoal. In Victoria he connected with the Island Arts and Crafts Society, contributed eight of his watercolours to the Society’s annual exhibition in 1916 and subsequently exhibited on eight more occasions up to 1935.  He also exhibited at the Vancouver Exhibition in 1930, representing the IACS, and at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1941. 

Fairbairn was the subject of a chalk portrait displayed at the1929 annual show of the BC Society of Fine Arts by Scottish artist Ina Uhthoff, another society member then establishing a reputation in the region. More light-heartedly, he featured in a self-portrait entitled “Archie by Archie.”  (pictured at right)

He studied painting in England, Germany and America, and exhibited widely, becoming an appointed member of the American Water Colour Society in 1929.  His individual watercolour exhibition in Victoria’s Alexandra Ballroom in 1926 was described by a critic as “unquestionably one of the most interesting individual exhibitions ever shown locally.” This collection numbered about 80 pictures, and while the majority represented scenes within the province, notably in the Rockies region, others captured scenes from France and Egypt.

An inveterate traveler, he undertook many sketching trips in the 1930s and 1940s, from which he depicted First Nations villages and totem poles in Haida Gwait and in the Skeena and Bulkley valleys. His interest in indigenous culture was profound and led him to publish a series of plays and short stories about native life on the Pacific coast.

In 1930 he was appointed by Order in Council as private secretary to His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia. Later, in 1932, a nearby residence, at 960 Joan Crescent, was built for him in Tudor Revival style.

Archibald Fairbairn was clearly not only a fine watercolourist but a man of many talents.  But it is maybe fitting that when he sailed for England in 1956, his registration at Southampton shows his occupation as “artist.” 

He died in California in 1979.

Sunday, 10 July 2022

Government House Reception

On July 5, members, friends and family gathered at Government House hosted by Her Honour Janet Austin, OBD to celebrate their history and open their exhibition on the 2nd floor of the ballroom. Pictured here are Her Honour, Vice-Regal Canine Consort MacDuff Austin-Chester, President Gillian Rhodes, and Past President Larry Gollner. Victoria Sketch Club is honoured to have their work at Government House.

Monday, 4 July 2022

History Corner ~ June 2022 ~ by John Lover

Whilst Teresa Victoria Wylde may be regarded as one of the lesser-known lights of the local art scene, she nevertheless made an intriguing contribution during a relatively short association with our Club a century ago.

Born in Victoria in 1870 of English parentage, Teresa was raised in a succession of downtown homes, one of which was sited where the Victoria Public Library now stands on Blanshard Street. 

With the advantage of a relatively well-to-do family, Teresa was able to move to England in 1892 to attend the Kensington School of Art in London. As a result of this experience, according to one critic, she displayed “a fearless manipulation of colours.” 

She resided in London until 1909, and during this period she achieved four showings at the Royal Academy, including what is thought to be her prime work, “This is the World and I am King.”  This picture is in vivid purple and subdued greens, showing a smiling dark-haired girl sitting at the root of a gigantic beach tree, playing at being a Queen.

Returning home to Victoria, she exhibited at the Studio Club and the BC Society of Fine Arts in Vancouver, where she had a studio from which she taught classes.  

Teresa was a close friend of the already established Sophie Pemberton and the up-and-coming Emily Carr, and together with Sophie helped to persuade Emily to follow their example and further her art education abroad. London was the obvious venue, although many considered other European art schools superior, provided that the student could cope with the language question.  The same pair also prompted Emily to adopt a brighter palette and give less attention to detail.

Teresa, like Emily, was one of the founder members of the Island Arts Club set up in 1909. At its first annual exhibition in 1910, she contributed 12 paintings, one of which, priced at an impressive $950, had been displayed at the Royal Academy the previous year.  

Although a fine landscape painter, her real forte was portraiture, in which she was credited by a Victoria Daily Times critic with “lines carefully drawn and expressions life-like.” One of her subjects was Dr. Edward Hassell, House Physician at the Royal Jubilee Hospital, a two-time Club president and fellow Club Charter Member. Another was a Lieutenant-Governor of BC, Thomas Paterson, featured in a striking full-length portrait in official uniform. 

Teresa last contributed to the Club’s annual show in 1920. Sadly, her talent would soon be lost to Victoria. After a short stay with family members in Shawnigan Lake, where her brother owned Strathcona Lodge, Teresa moved to London, England, in 1921 with one of her sisters, and eventually settled in a quiet corner of Somerset at her father’s ancestral home.   

She died in this picturesque West Country village of Kilmersdon in 1949.  

  1. This is the World and I am King, oil, 1909
  2. Dr. Edward Suter Hassel, oil, 1914

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

History Corner ~ May 2022 ~ by John Lover

 Jack Shadbolt, like sometime kindred spirit Max Maynard, was also a Club member of the 1930s, and was destined to make a great impression on the national art scene.    

He was born in 1909 in Shoeburyness, England, came to Canada in 1912, and from 1914 was raised in Victoria. He took various classes on the theory of art which exposed him to the influence of the Group of Seven and contemporary movements in the art world before becoming an art teacher in an elementary school. 
With his friend Maynard, he developed a passion for outdoor sketching and decided to become an artist. He met Emily Carr in 1930 and became a frequent visitor to her home. With fellow members of the Island Arts and Craft Society, Maynard, Emily Carr and Edythe Hembroff, he participated in the "Modern Room" section of the Society's 1932 exhibition, as part of the group's struggle to be understood in a local culture that was not ready for “modern art.”
Interestingly, up to 1932, Shadbolt had never received any formal practical art training, nor had he exhibited anywhere nor drawn a figure. But he had become devoted to art, and as he confided to Edythe Hembroff, his school teaching experience “was a great liberation… I learned much from their visualizing and conceptualizing processes.”  
Despite sometimes bitter personality clashes with Emily Carr, Jack, like Max, fell under her artistic influence. According to Hembroff, who organized a reconstruction of the Modern Room fifty years later, Jack’s landscapes already reflected the structured sky and formalized foliage of Emily’s canvases hanging nearby.   
Shadbolt left Victoria in 1933, travelling by car across the USA to Chicago and New York, where he stayed for some months studying rather than practising art. He went on to study art in London and Paris, and from 1938 taught and studied with Fred Varley at the Vancouver School of Art. 
During World War II he became an official war artist in the Canadian Army and produced drawings illustrating the London Blitz and the horrors of concentration camps. He later returned to his faculty position at the School of Art until his retirement in 1966, when he devoted more time to his painting and contributed to the development of abstraction and modernism in this region. Establishing himself as one of Canada's most important artists and art teachers, he became known for the distinctive style of his paintings and murals with social and political messages stemming from his personal experiences from wartime and a concern with aboriginal and environmental issues. His stated mission was to articulate the language of form and the evocation of experience.
Jack Shadbolt became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1972, and in 1987, together with his wife, he founded a charitable Institution for the Visual Arts to support and recognize achievements of artists in the province.
Painting up to the end of his life, he died in 1998 at the age of 89.