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.