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

VSC Programming for the Fall

 We have a busy continuation of our autumn program ahead! 

It is the season of harvests, colour and migrations of birds and animals on the move as winter approaches. The Covid-19 crisis is an opportunity for us to hone our skills at home, creating art daily, whether sketching, painting or otherwise. It's an opportunity to try new things and experiment with new ideas that have been percolating and waiting to be expressed. 

Indoor-at-home program
Our indoor program starts Nov 3rd until Dec1st. Tuesday afternoons (or mornings if you want an early start). Details will be sent closer to session dates .

Nov 3rd: Still-Life = Dinnertime : table setting with an autumnal theme
Nov 10th: Character = Life-drawing of a family member or friend in your bubble  
Nov 17th: Painting = View through your window or door
Nov 24th: Still-Life: TBA
Dec 1st:  Seasonal / TBA

Plein air
Our wonderful plein air outings will continue with Rand sending weekly information about location and dates (note, they will no longer occur on Tuesdays). 

Monday 2 November 2020

History Corner ~ October 2020 ~ VSC and Architects


History Corner
by John Lover

Over the years, the Club has been graced by the inclusion of a series of professional architects in its membership who have contributed much more to the artistic cause than simply their natural skills in sketching and perspective.

The most famous of these, Samuel Maclure, was a Charter Member at the Club’s founding in 1909. The son of a Scottish Royal Engineer he originally sought to be an artist and studied art at the Spring Garden Institute in Philadelphia, in addition to classes in architecture and mechanical drawing, before setting off on a career in architecture.

He moved to Victoria in 1892, and quickly became established as a leading residential architect, his clients constituting as much as one quarter of the Club’s original membership. At the same time, Maclure kept up his interest in drawing and painting and produced many impressive drawings and watercolours of local west coast landscapes. Cultured and of wide interests, his love of nature helped him put his observations on paper with fluency, sensitivity and simplicity. Although basically a traditionalist in artistic style, he approved and admired the new approach of Emily Carr and the Group of Seven in representing the untamed and rugged landscape of Canada. Despite a self-deprecating view of his own art work, his generous breadth of vision and objectivity, made him an invaluable critic in the eyes of fellow members, and he did much to enhance the status and reputation of the Society with his encouragement of other artists.

Maclure’s example persuaded Percy Leonard James, a fellow architect, to join the Club (by this time the Island Arts and Crafts Society.)  James was born in London, England, where he qualified as an architect before emigrating to Canada and settling in Oak Bay in 1908. Apart from his association with Maclure, he teamed up with Francis Rattenbury on projects such as the CPR Steamship Terminal Building (completed in 1924). His firm was rated second only to Maclure for the prestige and quality of its residential work. As a committed artist, James’ talents in sketching and watercolour were ably demonstrated in his contributions to Society annual exhibitions.

Visitors to the Society’s annual exhibition in 1916 in the Union Building were treated to architect John Keith’s “drawing of proposed Christ Church Cathedral,” a project which would not start for ten more years. Born in Nairn, Scotland, Keith had arrived in Victoria in 1891 specifically to win the competition for the design of the Cathedral, an accomplishment earning him fellowship of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Fast forward to the turn of the century and older members will remember us welcoming into the fold distinguished Calgary-born architect Nicholas Bawlf, who, after years of working overseas, established his practice in Victoria in 1972. His major projects had included numerous restorations, such as Market Square and the historic Barkerville settlement, together with contemporary contextual work exemplified by the Victoria Conference Centre. Bawlf demonstrated a wide range of interests, notably in heritage preservation, and was devoted to his watercolours.

Bawlf’s close friend and sometime collaborator was none other than Ray Goldsworthy, also a graduate of the UBC School of Architecture and with subsequent international experience in the United Arab Emirates, Hawaii and France.

Through his own company, set up here in 1990, he practiced in partnership with Bawlf on the Conference Centre project and completed work on the Lodge at Broadmead, Beckley Farm, Tillicum and Resthaven Lodge, the CBC Building and Esquimalt Branch Library.  

In addition to his service to our Club as President and Secretary, Ray has been unfailingly generous in sharing his experience and talent with fellow members. His own work, apart from its impeccable craftsmanship, is characterized by his free-flowing imagination and a puckish sense of humour.  

Ray recounts that the Director of the UBC School of Architecture strongly held the view that budding architects should be “Renaissance Men.” It seems that those of this profession who have passed through our ranks over the past century have striven to pass the test.

Wednesday 7 October 2020

History Corner ~ September 2020 ~ Ada Beaven


History Corner
by John Lover

On August 25th club members enjoyed a pleasant plein air meeting at the lovely home of Geoff Buck and Barbara Hubbard on Beach Drive. With Barbara away on business, Geoff was a welcoming host, and we had the happy choice of working either at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club or Loon Park, as well as among Geoff’s fruit trees in the back garden. 

A report in the Victoria Colonist, May 8th 1928, on a similar event almost a century ago shows how well the traditions of our club have endured:  

The weekly meeting of the Sketch Club of the Island Arts and Crafts was held by invitation in the delightful garden of Mrs. Hugo Beaven, Beach Drive, on Tuesday afternoon. There was a good turn-out of members and Mrs. Beaven received them and showed them the glory of Springtime bloom in this favored spot, leaving them to sketch were they would. The afternoon’s work was shown and criticized, and a very enjoyable time spent in discussion.

Ada Beaven was a daughter of J. D. Pemberton, the first Surveyor-General of the Province, and Arden, the Beaven home, was built by Samuel McClure in 1908 on part of her father’s original estate in South Oak Bay. She thus had a close association with the club as her brother Frederick Pemberton was an IACS Charter member and president, and her sister Sophie already a distinguished artist.  

Ada’s husband, Hugo Beaven, was the son of Robert Beaven, Mayor of Victoria and the fifth premier of the province. 

A man of parts, he was a bank manager, hunter, golfer and a specialist in roses, acting as a judge at flower shows and being responsible for the introduction of many new varieties to the city. His rose garden at Arden, 1176 Beach Drive, was widely known in the area. After his death in 1937, Ada, as a memorial to her husband provided fifty quality specimens to establish the rose garden at Windsor Park.  

In 1939, as a further legacy, she donated a parcel of her estate to the municipality to be used as a native plant garden to preserve indigenous species. At the junction of Margate Street and Beach Drive the garden is still assiduously maintained, although the site of Arden, opposite to the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, is now occupied by the Whitehall Apartments. Well known and respected in the community for her generous support of charities, Ada could be seen cruising in her electric car in the Oak Bay area almost up to the time of her death in 1958.  

It so happened that her sister, Sophie, died the following year, having spent the last years of her life on Beach Drive. Sophie had been a companion of Josephine Crease, Sam McClure and Emily Carr in the local sketching clubs of the early 1900s. Later she became the first Canadian-born artist to receive international recognition after her work in portrait and watercolour landscape painting was exhibited at the London Royal Academy and the Paris Salon. However, after her marriage in 1908, she left Victoria for England where her illustrious painting career sadly petered out due to ill health and family tragedy. 

Sophie lived most of her life in England, but on one of her visits to Victoria she was able to use her Ottawa contacts to help her friend Emily Carr gain access to the national art scene. She finally returned to settle permanently in Oak Bay in 1947.

Monday 31 August 2020

History Corner ~ August 2020


History Corner
by John Lover

The Island Arts Club on its formation in 1909 faithfully reflected the upper crust of Victoria society, and it was subsequently led by a succession of presidents prominent in the social and professional life of Victoria. The scene changed somewhat in 1936 when this role was filled by one C.F. Barker, about whom we knew very little until we had the good fortune to be contacted by Nanaimo resident Brian Excell. As a small boy living in Richardson Street, Brian recalled a next door neighbour whom he described as “a reserved and distinguished white-haired gentleman of short medium height.”

This was Charles (Charlie) Frederick Barker, born in London, England in 1873, and who at the age of 13 immigrated with his family to Vancouver. Brian had actually produced a very creditable short biography of Barker, and was seeking further information to fill in some gaps on his subject. By chance we had just received another query from someone asking about some Barker paintings in his possession, which we were happy to refer to Brian.

Thanks to Brian, we now know that Charlie was an avid cyclist. In the 1890s he was on the executive of the Vancouver Cycling Club and peddled to victory in three provincial championships on the Canadian made “Red Bird” cycle.  He had no trouble getting employment in a bewildering succession of positions – purchasing clerk, salesman, timekeeper – sometimes travelling abroad as far as Australia.  

However, Barker’s true interests lay in art and painting, and in the late 1920s he took lessons from two artists well-known in western Canada, John Radford and John Clarke Innes. Around about 1930, the Barkers moved to Victoria and Charlie became manager of the Durable Mat Company where he showed talent as an inventor in designing new mats and being awarded a U.S. patent in 1935.  He still diligently pursued his art career and in 1931 joined the prestigious Island Arts and Crafts Society, becoming a regular exhibitor in the Society’s annual shows from 1931 to 1938, and again in 1941. He served one year as Society President in 1936-'37, and his work was shown along with Emily Carr and others at an exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1939.  In 1941 he was listed in the publication “Who’s Who in Northwest Art.”

After 1946 Barker worked briefly as a clerk at the Yarrows shipbuilding site. During this time he enjoyed more time to paint and teach and these were his most productive years as an artist. Painting in the “realistic” tradition best suited his tastes, he had mastered composition and practiced a delicate, spare watercolour technique. His subject matter consisted largely of local seascapes and landscapes. Whilst watercolour was his preferred medium he was also proficient in oils.

It seems that Barker had long yearned to be regarded as a professional painter, and, interestingly, after his death in Victoria in 1953, his death registration lists his occupation as “art teacher,” stating that he had been practicing this for the past ten years.

Saturday 1 August 2020

July 2020 ~ History Corner

History Corner
by John Lover
John James Shallcross, Charter Member and first President of the Island Arts Club (IAC) in 1909, was a prominent businessman and influential figure in the community and able to offer impressive leadership to the new organization.

Born in Liverpool, England in 1858, Shallcross arrived in British Columbia in 1893 and became a partner in a lucrative insurance and import business, Shallcross, Macaulay & Co. He served as President of the Victoria Board of Trade, and was an Oak Bay alderman and a Victoria City councillor, also accepting a war-time commission in the Victoria Fusiliers.

After purchasing land in Oak Bay from the Pemberton estate, in 1908 he engaged his IAC colleague Samuel Maclure to build him a home, which he named Tor Lodge. Carefully restored in 2008, this magnificent residence still stands on its rocky site at 935 Foul Bay Road, capturing magnificent sea and mountain views, an example of the Arts and Crafts/Chalet architectural style to which Shallcross, like Maclure, was devoted.

Although not an artist himself, Shallcross held trenchant views on the subject of art. In a 1917 lecture, entitled “Art after the War,” he predicted that Cubism and Futurism would disappear, a view strongly supported by his equally traditionalist friend Dr. Edward Hassell, but much to the resentment of the few “progressives” in the IAC such as Emily Carr.

The Irish-born wife of Shallcross, Ethel Maude, also an IAC Charter Member, was a competent watercolourist whose works were featured in the IAC annual exhibitions from 1912 to 1917.

Shallcross was succeeded as IAC President by Dr. Hassell in 1914 and died in 1921 while still an Oak Bay alderman. His wife survived him until 1948.Tor House interior as it appears today

Sunday 26 July 2020

June 2020 History Corner

History Corner
by John Lover
Goward House in Cadboro Bay is now firmly established as a centre for cultural and artistic activity in the community. It has close associations with the Victoria Sketch Club, both as a facility for holding art exhibitions and the fact that it served us as a temporary home for our Tuesday meetings whilst the new Windsor Park Pavilion was under construction in 2005. During the 1990s it was also the venue for a weekly portrait painting session organized by a section of our Club, in which members and friends took turns to sit as models.

The house, of heritage value, was built and occupied for almost 80 years by the Goward family, with which our Club also enjoyed special links.  Originally called The Woodlands, it was designed in 1908 in the style of a wood-frame Colonial wood-frame bungalow by Bernard and Mary Goward, reflecting their time in India. In 1946 it became the home of their son Owen Goward and his wife Elizabeth, and was eventually sold to the Corporation of Saanich for $123,000 in 1973, on terms which allowed the family to  live there until 1986, when Elizabeth – Owen had died in 1983 – chose to vacate the property.

The house was converted to a seniors’ activity centre, managed by the Goward House Society, founded on a non-profit basis in 1989. In recognition of the Goward family’s lasting legacy to the Greater Victoria arts community, the Society offered Elizabeth the first honorary membership.  She passed away in 2002.

Former Club President, Kay Mais, recalled visiting the house in the Goward years, and was impressed with its “Old World Charm,” as well as with a gallery, set up on Owen’s retirement in 1971, to display the couple’s art works. Owen was an engineer by profession and an artist by avocation. He had studied art by correspondence from the Royal Academy in London, and Elizabeth had graduated from the Art Institute of Philadelphia, where the pair had first met.

Owen and Elizabeth were successful portrait, landscape and commercial artists. Both exhibited in the Island Arts and Crafts Society annual exhibitions in the late 1940s. Elizabeth was a noted portrait artist and Owen a talented watercolourist.  Several of his paintings can be found in the collection of the Royal BC Archives.

Owen Goward was an engineer by profession and an artist by avocation. He met his wife, Elizabeth, a noted portrait artist, at the Philadelphia School of Art. The couple married in 1938, returning to Canada in 1946 and making their home in Victoria.
Owen Goward exhibited with the Island Arts and Crafts Society in its final years in the late 1940s. A talented watercolourist, several of his paintings are in the collection of the Royal British Columbia Archives. He died in Victoria in 1983.

Saturday 6 June 2020

May 2020 History Corner

The celebrations of our Centennial Year in 2009 prompted a flood of interest and enquiries, notably from all parts of Canada and the UK. Of particular interest was a query from Kathryn Young, who along with another Manitoba scholar, Sarah McKinnon, was working on a biography of Canadian artist, Mary Riter Hamilton.

Born in Ontario in 1868, and reared in Manitoba, Hamilton was initially a painter of china tea services, who, after early widowhood, aimed to become a professional painter and undertook travel and study in Europe around the turn of the century in the manner of Victoria’s Emily Carr and Sophie Pemberton, earning some recognition both in France and Canada. Hamilton spent the Great War years in Victoria – she lived here from 1914 to 1919 – and the writers were interested to know of any links to the Island Arts and Crafts Society during that time.

We were able to establish that she exhibited in three IACS annual shows - 1913, 1914 and 1917 - during her Victoria sojourn, and that she supported herself, with some difficulty, by opening a studio and taking portrait commissions. Some of these portraits of BC lieutenant-governors still hang in Government House. It at this point that she declared it was impossible to earn a living as a professional painter.

Hamilton had an ambition to be a war artist, but tradition at that time was firmly against risking the lives of the fairer sex in a war zone. However, after the Armistice, she received a commission from the Amputation Club of BC (known later as the War Amps) to produce paintings of the battlefields in France and Belgium in the aftermath of war. For three years she lived on that scarred landscape in the most primitive conditions, achieving some 300 images. Reportedly, during this time, she had a Victoria patron sell off some of her paintings to supplement her income. Unsurprisingly the experience left her physically and emotionally drained, and never again able to paint with the same intensity. 

During the 1920s exhibitions of her work was held in Victoria in, Vancouver, Paris and London. She returned to Canada in 1925, and unselfishly donated all her work to the National Archives, despite being financially strained and obliged to revert to designing dress accessories to make ends meet. She retired partially blind to Vancouver in 1930.

Her health continued to deteriorate and with the complete loss of her sight in 1948 she was found to be living in abject poverty and passed away at a psychiatric institution in 1954. 

This was a sad end to a life of adventure and tragedy, fuelled by a powerful will, with her work perhaps not fully recognized by the artistic establishment.

However, after her death she was remembered here when Colin Graham arranged a retrospective exhibition of her work at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in 1959, and her art continued to be displayed both nationally and internationally.

It’s good to know that Young and McKinnon launched their meticulously researched work, No Man's Land: the Life and Art of Mary Riter Hamilton (University of Manitoba Press)in 2017 – and our Club and our history book earn a mention!
~ John Lover

Saturday 2 May 2020

April 2020 History Corner

History Corner
by John Lover
The enforced postponement of our 2020 Annual Exhibition at Glenlyon-Norfolk School in the light of the Coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic, despite its inevitability, nonetheless came as a shock and a disappointment. This has happened on previous occasions, albeit with relative infrequency, over the 111 years of Club history.

From the first exhibition of the Island Arts Club, held at the newly-built Alexandra Club (the ladies’ answer to the men-only Union Club!), the chain of these events remained unbroken until 1939, even managing to survive the years of the Spanish Flu pandemic, 1918 - '20, despite a succession of provincial bans on public assemblies during that period.

The year 1939 proved to be pivotal, and not only because of the imminence of World War II. The Island Arts and Crafts Society was in a state of gradual decline due in part to a loss of some key stalwart members and to a serious lack of funds. Two years previously a motion to continue its existence had only passed on a split vote. Following a decision not to suspend its activities for the year 1939, the Society opted to curtail them. The major casualty of this decision was what would have been the thirtieth annual exhibition which was to be postponed until the following year, ostensibly due to difficulties over accommodation. A rather modified show of Island artists was held at the Vancouver Art Gallery under the Society’s auspices, and the Sketch Club, still a vibrant component of the Society, held its own show at the Windermere Hotel in October 1939.

At this stage the Society was fortunate to find a savior in the person of John Kyle, just retired from a twenty-five year stint as the provincial Director of Technical Education. A longtime Society member and a fine artist, Kyle was elected Society President in 1939, and succeeded in keeping the torch of art burning throughout and beyond the war years. Annual exhibitions were held regularly up to and including the Society’s swansong event in 1950 at the Hudson’s Bay building.

After an outstanding tenure of 12 years, Kyle resigned as Society president in 1951 at the age of eighty. That year, as the old Society faded away, what would have been the fortieth annual show did not happen. Although the indefatigable Sketch Club was soon to pick up the torch, it needed time to get fully established.  In 1954 the first annual exhibition under its banner took place at the Dominion Hotel, beginning an unbroken run until 2020.

In the worst case scenario, this year's postponement would be only the fifth in our Club’s 111 years. Considering that this period includes two World Wars and two serious pandemics, this record represents a remarkable achievement. 

Tuesday 31 March 2020

History Corner ~ March 2020

History Corner
by John Lover
It was regrettable that our 2020 Annual Show at the Beach Drive campus of Glenyon-Norfolk School had to be cancelled due to COVID-19. However, we can be sure that the tradition of a long-standing relationship between the VSC and GLN will endure-- even though the life of our time-honoured gymnasium has come to its end!

During the life of the Island Arts and Crafts Society, there was no regular venue for the annual exhibitions which began in 1910. The Society was obliged to search for a suitable location annually and settle for the likes of the Alexandra Club, Union Bank Building, Pemberton Building, Belmont Building, Hudson’s Bay Company, Crystal Gardens, Board of Trade Building and Coast Hall.

Similarily after 1954, under the banner of the Victoria Sketch Club, scattered venues included the Dominion Bank, the Hudson's Bay Company, Eaton's, the Hudson’s Bay Company, Eaton’s, the Dominion Hotel, the Provincial Museum and Hillside Mall. But in 1984, Victoria Sketch Club President, Liza Chesshire, a former Matron at Glenlyon Norfolk School, made an arrangement with an old colleague, school’s Headmaster Keith Walker, to hold our annual show in the school gymnasium. This reflected an earlier tie as IACS members Ina Uhthoff and Will Menelaws who, between them, had taught at the school for 21 years.

We still enjoy this close relationship between school and club, and have always been appreciative of the school’s co-operation and support.  

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of their deal in 2009, Keith and Liza were re-united in a cake-cutting ceremony as part of our landmark Centennial event.  Sadly, both passed away in 2017.

The significance of this relationship is that in 1984, the Club, for the first time, was given a permanent annual fixture at a place we have come to regard as “home,” and in recent years we have been happy to include the artwork of GLN pupils in our shows.

Monday 16 March 2020

Ongoing News from VSC Executive regarding club activities this spring

Good afternoon. Some Membership news from VSC President and Executive. Please check your email for the full full communique.
*The 2020 Spring Programme is cancelled as are activities at the Windsor Pavilion.
*Work has begun on the Plein Air programme which is tentatively scheduled for a May start pending the current COVID-19 situation.
*The AGM will be held on-line. Details are pending.
*If you are doing anything interesting with your time (gardening, preparing for an upcoming show, funny stories), please send them to for the upcoming newsletter.
We all know that our Club is a focus of much of our social activity as well as a forum for our art work. However, we are in an unforeseen public health situation that is forcing us to take these actions. Actions that will disrupt our Club as well as our lives but given the circumstances prudence must over rule practice. Do take care personally and take whatever steps necessary to protect yourselves. Rest assure we will keep you posted on the activities we have initiated and in return please do not hesitate to contact us at

Tuesday 10 March 2020

Cancellation of 111th Annual Member Art Show and Sale

This afternoon the Executive Committee of the Victoria Sketch Club met and decided based on the current information available necessary to cancel its 111th Annual Art Show scheduled for next week at the Glenlyon Norfolk Junior School Campus. 

Our decision was based on a potential case of the Coronavirus [ COVID 19] at the Glenlyon Norfolk School. While we do not know the test results the reality is that prudence must take precedence  over planned public events such as our art show which The Honourable Janet Austin Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia was slated to open on the evening of 17 March. 

Additionally, we did not wish to interfere with the School’s planned programme to cleanse the campus.  We regret having to make this decision but it was necessary. If  the public health situation clarifies with the coming of spring we may reschedule our show sometime later in 2020. 

Joseph Gollner 
President VSC

Sunday 1 March 2020

February's History Corner

History Corner
by John Lover
The period leading up to our annual exhibition is inevitably one of furious activity, stress and – as our history shows – some controversy. 

Hanging committees are typically under pressure from members bidding for the more favourable placements or seeking special consideration such as the grouping of their pictures.
But one particular event stands out. According to a piece in the Victoria Daily Colonist, dated August 18 1957, “the biggest boner in Victoria Art history was pulled back in the 1930s by members of the Island Arts and Crafts Society – they hid Emily Carr paintings behind a door at one of their exhibitions."

It is assumed that the hanging committee at that time felt that these avant-garde pictures had little merit, at least in the eyes of those more predisposed to genteel English watercolours than bold totems or sensuous trees and skies. Perhaps the committee felt themselves justified in protecting the sensitivities of a culturally conservative Victoria public.

The committee may well have been mindful of the warning issued by past Society president, Dr, Edward Hassell, artistically a die hard conservative, but otherwise a well-respected resident medical officer at the Royal Jubilee Hospital. In his diagnosis, the good Doctor expressed the fear that Emily had suffered “an attack of Neo- or Post-impressionism,” a virus imported from her time in Paris which would leave her permanently squint-eyed.

In 2005, a Times-Colonist reporter good-humouredly reported that our Club still wears the philistine image of this slight like a paint-spattered smock. Indeed, by the turn of the century, War Canoes, a work of the now iconic Emily Carr had sold for $1,018,750 at the Heffel Fine Art Auction House in Toronto, and a record $1,121,250 was bid on a forest scene titled Quiet 
But perhaps we should show some mercy to those hapless hangers. The scale of this vindication would have astonished even the likes of Uhthoff, Maynard and Shadbolt, Carr’s staunchest contemporary admirers in the Society.

Tuesday 4 February 2020

Member pages update call out

Notice to all members:  On our webpage ( ) you can find the members’ information by clicking on “Members” in the “More Information” box on the right middle. Please check to update your page or to start a webpage if you do not have one now. Please include your photograph and a bio and some examples of your art work. No personal information such as your telephone number or your email address is permitted on the VSC website. The VSC secretary is the Club’s only contact and her email is generic. You may also add another link to your own website , if you have one, with personal information.

Please help us ensure that the webpage is an updated and complete representation of all our members. Please send your updated material to to be uploaded to our website. Visitors to the webpage will likely be interested in viewing the member artists and their work, including some who have seen our poster and are considering attending the show. Give them a glimpse of what to expect when they attend the Show.

Friday 31 January 2020

January's History Corner

History Corner
by John Lover
The establishment of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in 1951 was the culmination of a long and frustrating struggle for over almost half a century in which our predecessors in the Island Arts and Crafts Society, and later the Victoria Sketch Club, played a vital role.

For a capital city, Victoria was painfully slow to mark its own cultural presence in the form of an art gallery. The need for such an institution had been implicit in the stated objectives of the Society, and as early as 1911, the Provincial Government had made a firm promise to provide for a permanent art gallery, with a view to “fostering the artistic spirit in the City and in the Province.”

In the event, it was left to the efforts of the Society’s Margaret Kitto to pursue the cause, and persuade the Canadian Pacific Railway to provide such a gallery as an attachment to the Crystal Garden in 1925.  However, support for this venture was deemed to be a Society rather than a civic responsibility, and sadly, due to a reported lack of public interest and the inability to finance it, this facility was short-lived.

Opening the annual exhibition of 1930, B.C. Premier S. F. Tolmie mentioned the need to secure a permanent home and gallery for Victoria. However, the hollowness of such sentiments unmatched by any positive assistance were felt even more keenly here when in 1931 Vancouver acquired an art gallery to add to its art school. In 1932, a frustrated Emily Carr offered her home as a public gallery, but her pleas to government to provide financial support for the venture fell on deaf ears. Likewise in 1938 a proposal from prominent artist Kathleen Maltwood to build a small public gallery, contingent upon City funding for its upkeep, was rejected.

Victoria was left to wait until 1946 for any further progress on this score. In that year a group of sponsors, mobilized by Mark Kearly, son of an English earl, and Lawren Harris, and including Society members Ina Uhthoff, William Menelaws and Isabel Hobbs, succeeded in establishing the “Little Centre,” a small but welcome public gallery in Yates Street. Another who steered the way to this achievement was Sara Spenser of the well-known Victoria retail family, whose 1889 mansion in Moss Street, after the “holding operation” of the Little Centre, was eventually to become the home of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in 1951. Ironically this was the year of the demise of the old Society which had long pursued this goal in the teeth of civic indifference, 
With a site now secured, the newly established Gallery Board, on the recommendation of Ina Uhthoff, hired Colin Graham, a Cambridge and Berkeley educated Canadian working as an art educator in San Francisco, as its first Director. This proved to be an inspirational choice. During his tenure, 1951-'73, through exhibition, education and collection programs, he was able to enliven the rather static Victoria cultural scene by embracing modern art, and thence proceeding to lay the foundation for the gallery which has played such a key role in the art life of this community.  

Graham looked kindly at the Sketch Club, the surviving and by now flourishing component of the former Society, and in 1956 suggested the insertion of the word “Victoria,” so gifting us our present title. He remained a good friend of our Club, and even in his declining years gave invaluable encouragement to our Centennial Year celebrations, and contributed an elegant forward to our 2008 history book. Colin Graham died in Victoria in 2010 at the age of 94.

Wednesday 22 January 2020

111th Annual Art Show and Sale

Victoria Sketch Club is proud to invite you all to its 111th Annual Art Show and Sale.  This year's invitation and poster artwork is by member Terry McBride.

Consider yourself invited!