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. 

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.

Saturday 30 April 2022

History Corner ~ April 2022 ~ by John Lover

 Without doubt, Max Maynard was one of the most intriguing characters in the history of our Club as he crossed our stage in the 1930s. A restless and enigmatic figure, he was born in India in 1903 of missionary parents and came to Victoria in 1912, where he was destined to leave an important legacy in the art history of the province.

In 1927, he met a fellow intellectual spirit in Jack Shadbolt, who also taught art in a local elementary school. Maynard had exhibited four times with the Island Arts and Crafts Society but neither had any formal art training. They had both become devotees of the Group of Seven and became frequent visitors to Emily Carr’s studio, realizing that she was a mature artist who had already received national attention and was well-versed in the latest trends in the art world thanks to her sojourn in France. This had left her frustrated in her efforts to throw off the yoke of conservatism in Victoria, and notably in the ranks of the IACS.

Emily initially welcomed the support of like souls expressing the spirit of the land and received them hospitably with cookies and cocoa. Gradually, though, she became irritated at their precocity and proselytizing, and harbouring a suspicion that Max, whose criticism “was not worth a sniff,” was stealing her artistic ideas. “Despicable cads” is how she described them to her friend, Edythe Hembroff. Fortunately, these acolytes resisted her snubs and enjoyed a valuable learning experience which would influence their own painting styles. They would also become her important allies in the cause of “modern art.” 

As daughter Rona amusingly recalled, her school-teacher father would “often bound out at the end of the day, sketchbook tucked under his arm, to meet a stout, middle-aged woman at the wheel of a waiting sedan. The sight of her mesmerized the kids. They had no idea she was going to be a famous artist. Her name was Emily Carr, and she had come to take her acolyte, Max Maynard, sketching.”

In 1932, as IACS Vice-President, Max made a positive contribution to the cause by persuading the Executive to permit the inclusion of a separate “Modern Room” in the forthcoming IACS Annual Exhibition. The seven contributing artists were Emily Carr, Edythe Hembroff, Max Maynard, Jack Shadbolt, Ina Uhthoff, Ronald Bladen and John McDonald. 

Max produced one hundred copies of a manifesto entitled “The Modern Point of View” for free distribution. His standpoint was that he had always been strangely moved by nature and had set out to communicate the colour and inner meaning of a visual experience rather than describe the literal facts. Sadly, reception to this imaginative event was disappointing, and most copies of Max’s manifesto were stolen during one of his coffee breaks. The Modern Room made little lasting impression on the public of Victoria, who would have to wait another two decades for further enlightenment on contemporary art, this time with the advent of a new art gallery with a progressive director in Colin Graham. Meanwhile the IACS, with the exception of a few of its artists, reverted to the traditional way of its comfort zone. 

However, according to his colleague Edythe Hembroff, the Modern Room experience gave Max the self-confidence to expand his art from sketches and lino-cuts to oils and in a larger format. He remained in Victoria until 1938, developing his own distinctive version of Cubist-style images, but unlike Emily, his mentor, failing to win accolades outside of western Canada. 

Max left his mark during a stint as Interim Director of the Vancouver Art Gallery in the 1940s, and later moved on to an extensive and distinguished career as a professor of English Literature at the University of New Hampshire. J. Dennis Robinson, a former student, remembered him as an intense character and a brilliant lecturer, with the gift of bringing his subject vividly to life. Yet she got the impression that Max still thought of himself primarily as a painter. Robinson describes how Max would draw masterful sketches on the chalkboard and leave his students gazing in surprise as he erased them. Indeed, Max was highly skilled in drawing, particularly the human figure, although he is perhaps best known for his abstracted landscapes with their brilliant colours, usually based on sketches from his ramblings. 

On retirement from teaching in 1973, Max took off for England, where he resumed painting, still seeking the fame as an artist that had eluded him over half a century. He returned for his final years to Victoria in 1978 where he finally exhibited in galleries in Canada and the United States. Although he now enjoyed some appreciation in his native land, it probably left his craving for the true recognition unrequited.   

Max Maynard passed away in a Victoria seniors’ home in 1982.

Illustrations:  (1) Max Maynard (1903-1982);  (2) Logs on a Beach, oil on paper, 25 x 30 in.

Thursday 31 March 2022

History Corner ~ March 2022 ~ by John Lover


History Corner
by John Lover
With our Annual Show this month, we thought it might be interesting to “do a centennial” and recall what our predecessors were up to with their 1922 event.
The venue on that occasion was the Belmont Building on Government Street, built in 1912. Sadly, that show, held in October, marked the last months of the highly influential Lady Sarah Crease, an Island Arts Club Charter Member who was to pass away the following December at the venerable age of 96. 
As a teenager in England she had attended the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837, and had later undergone the long sea voyage to Victoria with three of her children to join her husband there. A very accomplished artist, she was a prolific sketcher, and her legacy included several hundred ink, pencil and watercolour sketches, many reflecting life in BC from its Fort Victoria beginnings.
Also in 1922, the Club amalgamated with the Provincial Arts and Industrial Institute and became known as the Island Arts and Crafts Society. Under the auspices of the former Club, a School of Handicraft and Design had opened in 1913, though its life was short and craft instruction was subsequently left in the hands of BC’s school system. However, a craft section became an established feature in the Society’s annual shows, and endured until the Society’s last show in 1950
From the Club’s outset, a catalogue of works was produced for each annual show. The 1922 version, price ten cents and, for once, backed up by some advertising customers, listed 178 paintings, of which 138 were watercolours and 40 oils, together with 84 craft items. Only 5 paintings were priced in excess of $100: $30 was a more average figure. There were 79 exhibitors.
The catalogue included a membership application form, which advised that membership was open to all persons over 16 years of age, on payment of an annual subscription of two dollars. Despite the modest revenue accrued from membership dues, the Society managed to keep itself solvent in those years by hosting music concerts and other fund-raising events.
The 1922 show was lacking some of the names who were to become stars in the artistic world, although the Crease family was represented by Lady Sarah’s children Josephine and Lindley, who had inherited much of their mother’s talent.  

One missing name was that of Emily Carr, who after an unfulfilled experience in Vancouver had returned to Victoria in 1913 to run a boarding house. Subsequently she did little painting in the years leading up to 1927, when she was to receive some due recognition at national level.
The ailing Samuel Maclure was also absent, and the “modernist” stars of the future, Maynard and Shadbolt, and their colleagues Ina Uhthoff and Edythe Hembroff-Schleicher, were yet to arrive on the scene. Nevertheless, standards were maintained through the contributions of such stalwarts as Tom Bamford, Donald Cameron, Tom Gore, Margaret Kitto, Maude Lettice, Will Menelaws, Lillian Sweeney and Gwladys Woodward. 
Much water has flowed over the past century, but traditions have weathered the years. Acrylic work may now predominate, but the basic structure of our Show remains intact, with its 6-day duration and - not to be forgotten - the prize draw!  

Illustrations:  (1) Belmont Building, 614 Humboldt Street, Victoria  (2) Lady Sarah Crease

Friday 25 February 2022

2022 Members Show and Sale Announcement

It's here!  It's here!  The 113th Annual Art Show and Sale ~ March 22-27, 2022.

Click here for the official press release & help us spread the word!

History Corner ~ February 2022


History Corner
by John Lover
From its outset in 1909, the Island Art Club was to include in its membership representatives of the most distinguished families in the province. One of these was Rose Bullen, a granddaughter of Sir James Douglas, the first Governor of British Columbia. 
Born in New Westminster in 1863, as Annie, Amelia (Rose) Bushby, she followed in the footsteps of her aunt, Martha Douglas Harris, youngest daughter of Sir James, and one of the Club’s Charter Members. The multi-talented Martha specialized in still life and portraits and was also a writer and proficient in weaving and lacemaking.  
Like Martha, Rose was sent to England for schooling, where she studied drawing and music, receiving further art instruction in Germany.
In 1884, after her return to Victoria, Rose married Arthur Fitzherbert Bullen founder of the BC Marine Ways shipbuilding firm, which ultimately became Yarrows. The family home was “Oakdene” in Esquimalt, and the local Bullen Park was named for the family.
As an artist, Rose was noted for her oils and watercolours, taking inspiration from the BC landscape during her frequent travels. The watercolour shown here, entitled “Arbutus Trees,” painted in the Goldstream region, is one of the three of her works owned by the Union Club of Victoria.  
Her work appeared at the Island Arts and Crafts Society’s annual exhibitions from 1917 to 1936.

She died in Victoria in 1936. 

Illustrations:  (1) Arbutus Trees, Watercolour on Paper  (2) Rose Bullen. BC Archives, F-09364

Monday 31 January 2022

History Corner ~ January 2022

 It was at the 1927 Island Arts and Crafts Society’s annual show that Miss E. Bainbridge-Smith, a first-time exhibitor, submitted seven oil paintings, one of which, entitled “A Forest Trail,” sold for the princely sum of $20. Despite a record attendance of 1,000 that year at the Belmont Building, this piece was one of  only nine sales, a modest outcome from the 287 pictures on display, which included an unsold four from an “outsider,” Fred Varley, an original member of the “Group of Seven” and recently appointed to the Vancouver School of Art. 

Bainbridge-Smith’s promising contribution seemed to tail off in subsequent years, accounting for just ten more paintings up to and including the 1940 exhibition. However, thanks to a history of Cordova Bay - “Sea-Lake” - by author Anne Pearson - we are offered an insight into a very interesting character, described as “a slightly eccentric, intelligent, wealthy woman, who dared to smoke cigarettes and drive English cars.” This was a lady of parts, of which a love of paintings was only one component of a determination to live life to the full.
Bainbridge-Smith was in fact a niece of Lord Haliburton, also being related to the author Richard Haliburton. After cultivated land became available on the Cordova Bay Ridge in 1908, she bought a substantial plot in the area with the bright notion of establishing a girl’s  agricultural school for “refined young English girls immigrating to Canada.” This institution appears in the “Englishwoman’s Year Book, 1914” under the more pretentious moniker of “Haliburton College for Gentlewomen.” The lucky students were to be housed in an adjacent red barn. 
This ambitious project was enthusiastically supported by another pioneer and neighbour, one Major Barton, a retired parson of independent wealth, with a passion for agricultural pursuits.  He tried, with some proven success, to teach the girls some of his skills, including laying apple and cherry orchards, some of which being still in evidence today. In the event, although the school survived for only a few years, it could boast some success as a marriage bureau as some of the farm trainees, perhaps showing where their true interests really lay, won the hearts of local farmers.
Unphased, the colourful Bainbridge-Smith lived in her Wesley Road house for another thirty years, enjoying world tours, happily painting the local scenery, generously presenting her works to friends and neighbours, and perhaps denying the IACS some of her best artistic talent.