Sunday 26 December 2021

December History Corner by John Lover

Maude Lettice, whose association with the Island Arts Club and its Sketch Club successor spanned some 60 years, can safely be recognized as our longest-serving member, and as one who played a pivotal role in bridging the transition from one version of our club to the next.

Her father Robert, a mid-century emigrant from England, arrived in Victoria in 1862 and established a successful business. The Lettice family first resided in a house in Broughton Street surrounded by orchards, where Maude, one of six siblings, was born in 1879. Later, Robert commissioned a residence, Yaxley, in Faithful Street, which was built in 1916.   
After leaving school Maude studied art under Miss Woodward and John Kyle, and became a friend of Josephine Crease of Pentrelew, a charter member of the Island Arts Club, later the Island Arts and Craft Society (IACS), of which Maude was soon to join and establish the unique record of contributing to every annual exhibition from 1910 to 1941, and again in 1947. 
Her early paintings were created in traditional British watercolour style, with fine detailing and smooth application of colour. However, Maude showed open-mindedness in adapting her style to incorporate more modern techniques, such as those exhibited in the “Modern Room” component of the 1932 exhibition of the IASC. Indeed, according to Emily Carr’s biographer, Hembroff-Schleicher, Maude subsequently developed a more impressionistic style, larger in format and with brighter colours and more freedom in her brushwork. 
After World War II, lessons from Amy Stone of Toronto again persuaded Maude  to change her painting style, only abandoned late in life due to failing eyesight.
She was a long-time member of the executive committee of the IACS, chaired the seminal meeting in 1952 when it was decided that the Arts and Crafts Society be known as the Sketch Club, and was elected President of what had become known as the Victoria Sketch Club in 1958. On the occasion of the Club’s fiftieth birthday in 1959, Lettice was made a life member in appreciation of her service, and the Club presented one of her watercolours, painted at Saxe Point, as a gift to Government House. 
At the Club’s 1971 annual exhibition, there was a display of 14 pictures of the 92-year-old veteran. Maude, a member of both the Vancouver and Victoria art galleries, having exhibited in both, died in Victoria in 1976.
Her paintings have been hung in galleries in Victoria and Vancouver and private exhibitions in Toronto and Halifax.
On a personal note, while researching for the Club’s history book in 2008, I had the good fortune to visit Yaxley the Lettice family home, and meet Maude’s niece, the charming Evelyn Lettice, who was in the process of leaving the house in which she had spent all of her 88 years. 
Evelyn, had spent her entire working life in administration at Esquimalt Dockyard and achieved distinction at a range of sports, including an appointment as a national ice-skating judge.  She was happy to share a host of memories about her aunt and past personalities in the Victoria art scene and was able to attend our History Book launch at Abkhazi Gardens later in the year.  We were able to renew acquaintance sometime later when some of our Club members participated in an art show at Somerset House, the Senior Care Home, where we were joined by Evelyn, now a resident there. 
Evelyn passed away in 2012, and, interestingly, in 2018, Yaxley, the former Lettice family home, was to achieve heritage status as a fine example of an Edwardian era Georgian Classical Revival building.
Maude Lettice, photograph, Collection of Evelyn Lettice
Maude Lettice, Summertime Near Victoria, B.C.
Yaxley, the Lettice family home

Saturday 4 December 2021

November History Corner ~ by John Lover


Recently my daughter-in-law Barbara unearthed some paintings from her mother’s collection by an artist named Emily Sartain, whom I recalled was a distinguished painter of wildflowers and had a connection with our club. It transpired that Barbara’s mother, a keen horticulturist, had once commissioned Sartain to paint a picture for her.

Sartain was born at Goring Heath, Oxfordshire in 1903, and educated in London, England. She demonstrated her gift as a watercolourist at an early age and, concentrating on delicately crafted floral portraits, turned professional in 1931. The following year her career took off when HM Queen Mary, wife of George V, purchased her first exhibited painting – a study of delphiniums and antirrhinums - at an exhibition of the Society of Women Artists- in London. 

After contributing to numerous exhibitions in Britain, she came to Vancouver in May 1939 to visit her sister, and during her visit became fascinated with the wildflowers in the area. Unable to undertake the return journey home due to the outbreak of WW2 in September, she stayed in Canada throughout war, taking Canadian citizenship, and holding exhibitions in British Columbia and Alberta to raise money for war charities. Her success continued in the post-war years. In addition to her exhibitions, Sartain gave radio broadcasts about Canadian wildflowers, in which she took a great personal interest, particularly in those species threatened with extinction. 

As with most well-known artists in the region she was drawn into the orbit of the Island Arts and Crafts Society and contributed to the Society’s 1948 annual exhibition. Sartain maintained her links with the Society, and, in later years, with the Victoria Sketch Club. 

Returning to England in 1951 to complete a pre-war commission, she exhibited freely throughout Britain, and her show in the Coronation Year of 1953 received widespread attention. She held all the medals which the Royal Horticultural Society awarded for flower painting and contributed five pages to the Society’s Royal Autographs Album, which bore the signatures of both British and Swedish royalty. Her flower pictures were published in a variety of forms in both Britain and Canada, 

In 1956 Sartain returned to Canada to continue her studies of the Canadian flora. With her passion for the preservation of wildflowers undimmed, she was on hand to assist the Royal BC Museum in the preservation of the Thetis Park Nature Sanctuary. 

By now renowned internationally for her fine workmanship and careful detail, Coutts Hallmark commissioned her to paint the official flower of each Canadian province as part of the 1968 National Centennial Celebration.

Gifted at embroidery and needlework, Sartain also painted animals and landscapes, and experimented with oils. However, her first love remained the wildflower, of which she produced some 5,000 --mainly commissioned-- watercolour portraits. 

Sartain was of Huguenot descent, related to Chevalier John Sartain, the famous etcher and engraver of Philadelphia, and her style was considered to resemble that of Pierre-Joseph Redoute and other great French botanical painters. 

She died in Victoria in 1990.