Sunday, 13 December 2020

A Pandemic Perspect


These images were taken during the Spanish Flu pandemic which lasted from February 1918 to April 1920, spread over four successive waves. One of the deadliest pandemics in human history, over 500 million people were infected.

Thursday, 10 December 2020

December's History Corner by John Lover

 As a newspaper delivery boy in 1947, one of the addresses on 11-year old Hugh’s route was 1201 Fort Street, a stately mansion in which two old sisters were spending their declining days.  When the last of the sisters passed away, and following the auctioning of household effects, the lady who had long cared for the sisters invited Hugh and other neighbourhood kids to see in the house they had long viewed with childlike awe.

Wandering through the empty rooms, Hugh discovered some turn-of-the-century newspapers and a battered leather-bound old book containing seeds and plants in a cupboard. He was told that he could keep the tome.

This Italianate house-- known as Pentrelew-- had, in fact, had been the home of the distinguished Crease family since 1875. The widowed Lady Sarah Crease (pictured below left), a talented artist, and her daughter Josephine had been charter members of the Island Arts Club at its foundation in 1909. Together with Sarah’s other artistic children-- Lindley, who died in 1940, and Susan -- the family provided a consistent backbone to the organization. Their home became a popular venue for the meeting of artists. The loss of Josephine and Susan in 1947 marked the end of an era.

The former paperboy was Hugh Curtis, and was destined to make his own claim to fame. After graduation and an award-winning career in radio, he entered political life with the Saanich Council in 1972, subsequently becoming mayor and first chairman of the Capital Regional District. He moved into provincial politics and held several provincial cabinet portfolios, including the finance ministry in Premier Bill Bennett’s government. 

Years later, in 1998, when Hugh was cleaning out his own collections, he came across the battered old souvenir from Pentrelew. He contacted the Royal BC Museum about his find, and was referred to the Provincial Museum of Alberta where a chord was struck.

The story dates back to 1857, when a scientific survey of an alleged drought-ridden area of the prairies was undertaken, financed by the British government. Known as the Palliser Expedition, this three-year study collected information on plants, animals, weather and other factors which could determine the prospects for agriculture in that environment.

Featured heavily in the final report was the work of well-known botanist Eugene Bourgeau whose task was to collect seeds and plants for the Kew Gardens research centre in London. Bourgeau presented his own record of this work, kept in a leather-bound book, to colleague John Lindley, a British professor of botany and secretary of the Royal Botanical Society. In turn, Lindley passed the book to his artistic daughter Sarah, who had provided illustrations for his own published works. Sarah went on to marry Henry Pellew Crease, and took the Bourgeau book to Canada when she moved there to join her husband, who would embark on a successful law career in British Columbia and eventually earn a knighthood. 

To cap off the saga, in 1998, the former newspaper kid (pictured below) was flown to Edmonton, courtesy of the Alberta Museum, to present the unique and much-travelled botanical collection to the Alberta minister of community development. The Bourgeau book had effectively returned home as the source of its collection had been in an area of Alberta and Saskatchewan, which became known as the “Palliser Triangle.”  

And to the Alberta Museum, the book was a treasure.

Wednesday, 25 November 2020

In memorial ~ Ray Goldsworthy


Ray Goldsworthy: Colleague, Mentor, Friend
by John Lover ; collage by Christine Gollner
As VSC members, we are among the many saddened at Ray’s passing. Heartfelt sympathy on behalf of us all has been conveyed to his family.

Ray’s quiet and modest demeanour belied an outstanding professional career. A graduate of the UBC School of Architecture, he acquired international experience in the United Arab Emirates, Hawaii and France. Through his highly respected architectural practice, first set up here in 1990, his completed projects, which ranged across British Columbia, included innovative school and health care facilities such as Broadmead Lodge. He also worked in partnership with his friend and collaborator Nick Bawlf on the Victoria Conference Centre. It was fitting that we should celebrate our Club centennial in 2009 at the University Club which was another of Ray’s creations.

He was also known in the community as a selfless volunteer. A member of the Kiwanis Club of Victoria for 52 years, Ray started the tradition of an annual lunch which he then hosted for 30 years, and he is still remembered in those circles as “a happy individual with a big smile.”

Ray came to us in 2005, shortly after the sad passing of his wife. In those early days he was generally seen in the company of the then ailing Nick Bawlf, to whom he gave constant support and the chance to enjoy some last years in the company of fellow artists. From the beginning, Ray was unfailingly generous in sharing his experience and talent, notably his sense of perspective. He also applied his professional skills in designing an improved layout of display panels at annual exhibitions which gave a better flow and increased visibility.

One secret to Ray’s effectiveness was an unfailing ability to see what was important and to separate the wheat from the chaff. This emphasis on economy of effort was evident in his stints as Club Secretary and subsequently President. He believed that the shortest message was the most effective, and that one should put on paper only what was pertinent. In the chair he would politely discourage verbosity and cut to the heart of the matter. This philosophy was also evident in his art work with his impeccable tidiness, elegance and sureness of touch and his gift of expressing the essential with a few brush strokes. His work was at the same time packed with interest. It sparkled with his colourful imagination and a humour inspired by his fascination with the great cartoonists. 

Ray truly valued his friends in the Club, and was very appreciative of his recent Honorary Member award. Most of all, we’ll remember Ray for his kind and generous nature, his wisdom and his infectious laughter. He had that rare and wonderful gift of lighting up a person’s day.

His loss has indeed left a gap in our ranks.

History Corner - November 2020


History Corner
by John Lover

Ten years ago, a newspaper review of our Centennial History Book characterized the formation of the Island Arts Club in 1909 as “hobby for city’s elite.” Perhaps this title did less than justice to an organization which has outlasted all its competitors and is honoured as the oldest arts organization west of the Great Lakes. 

It can be argued that the Club over the years has demonstrated considerable degrees of professionalism. Despite suggestions of cultural snobbery, there were indeed high standards of artistic talent amongst members right from the start, those who merited the classification of gifted amateurs, rather than simply genteel daubers. The likes of Josephine Crease, Emily Carr and Edith Hembroff-Schleicher had studied art in France, England and California, and many of the British immigrants, such as Mary Daniell, Margaret Kitto, Teresa Wilde and Tom Bamford received their early training in British art schools. Sophie Pemberton (Little Boy Blue, 1897 at right), an early member of Victoria’s local sketching clubs, had already received international recognition in Europe. 

It would however be an exaggeration to associate Club with professionalism, if this is strictly defined as making a living mainly/entirely through selling art work, and thus involving such considerations as contracts, pricing structure, deadlines and the use of high grade materials. The only original Club member who was able to survive on art alone was reputedly Thomas Fripp, who had established himself as a noted watercolourist following his arrival from England in 1893.   

That said, it’s unlikely there were many club members who would have had the need or the wish to make a living from selling their art. For the likes of the affluent Crease or Pemberton families, who produced some of the best artists, any such revenue to be garnered would be small change. One-time President Tom Bamford, although of relatively modest means, showed similar indifference. A civil servant and neighbour of Carr, and a talented and prolific painter of Victoria landscapes, he rarely sold any, preferring to give them away. A local journalist once claimed that “everybody has a Bamford (see image at left); they got them as wedding presents.” 

However, putting to one side the notion of full-time professionalism, this is not to say that there have been many members, then and now, who reached professional standards through their specialized training, peer recognition, gallery showings and commitment of time and finance.   

It’s interesting to recall that during their time with the Club, its three most distinguished members, Emily Carr, Jack Shadbolt (at right, Mosaic for Autumn) and Max Maynard, never derived much income from painting. Any big pay-days lay far in the future. In those days Carr was a landlady while the others were schoolteachers. Speaking of teaching, this does lead to the point that some members did make their living from art, if we include activities, other than selling, but nevertheless art-associated, such as book-illustration. This would apply to art teachers like Shadbolt, Maynard, and Menelaws, as well as Kitto who supplemented her teaching income from the sale of her postcards at her Art Deco studio; and Will Menelaws and Ina Uhthoff who taught at Glenlyon-Norfolk School. Most notably Uhthoff, who ran the Victoria Art School, had the most all-round investment in art as teacher, administrator and writer of a newspaper column as well as being a gifted painter.

It’s fair to conclude that the Club has always been -- as the politicians are wont to say -- a broad church, catering to a wide range of ambitions and interests. It has observed the philosophy that every member has something to offer. Its influential annual exhibitions have always provided a platform for anyone seeking to enhance their reputation in the art community and perhaps enjoy the satisfaction of making sales. Even Emily Carr, despite her waspish comments about the Club’s conservatism, must have appreciated her indebtedness on this score to “the only game in town.” In turn, the most talented members have invariably been generous in helping and encouraging by example those of more modest ambitions, painting for sheer enjoyment and the desire to raise their standards. Overall, the Club has remained true to one of its founding objectives in providing a focal point for artists in the region to share their talents.

This sense of camaraderie was well expressed by the late Ted Harrison who joined the Club with his national reputation already well-established. He gave his reason for joining as follows: “because I want to be able enjoy being with a group of like-minded people doing the same thing as I do.”  

Sunday, 15 November 2020

New Page coming to Website

 We are compiling a page of interesting links to other local Visual Art Clubs and Supply Shops.  Check out the preview and let us know if anything is missing by sending an email to ATTN: Webmaster