Sunday 30 July 2023

History Corner ~ July 2023 by John Lover

Lillian Clarke Sweeney, artist and noted wood carver and sculptor, was associated with our Club for over half a century. One of the 56 Charter members who founded the Island Arts Club in 1909, she was later one of the stalwarts who bridged the transition of the Island Arts and Crafts Society to the Victoria Sketch Club in 1956. 

Born in Winnipeg in 1884, she became a resident of Victoria in 1904, where she married William Sweeney in 1912. Under her maiden name of Clarke her work had hung in the Club’s first Annual Exhibition in 1910, and she remained a faithful contributor until 1927. She exhibited at the Vancouver Art Gallery in the 1937 Vancouver Island Exhibition, and this versatile lady became a staff artist at the BC Provincial Museum of Natural History and Anthropology in 1936.

Lillian showed her talent as an illustrator in co-operating with her sister, writer Frances Ebbs Canaran, in publishing “Tale of a Belgian Hare,” a 1914 book dedicated to the little children of Belgium deprived of their homes and heritage during the German invasion.   

In 1956, members the newly formed Sketch Club organized a party to honour Lillian Sweeney for “keeping the Club together by means of her charm and personality and generosity in allowing winter Monday meetings at her home and in providing tea and encouragement.” The following year she was elected Club president.

Sweeney was a particularly gifted oil painter (see oil-on-card illustration below). Representing the Victoria Sketch Club, she took the “best oil” in a 1958 competition with eleven other provincial art clubs. Two of her paintings were presented to the Government to hang in the Provincial Library.

She was not only a fine wood carver, but equally adept at sculpture, and was commended by the Smithsonian Institute on her work for the Museum, which included all manner of paintings and models, including dioramas of Indigenous life. She had a complete collection of British Columbia birds, and carved to meet orders from across the province.

On her death in 1961, the Museum paid her the following tribute: “During her years of service as an artist on the Museum staff, she produced many life-like models of fishes, mushroom, flowers, and prehistoric animals. Her images of native fishes have never been excelled, despite the advent of plastics and more modern techniques and her painting dioramas of native life will continue to be used in schools of the province for years to come.” 

Monday 3 July 2023

History Corner ~ June 2023 ~ by John Lover

 Lindley Crease was a member of a socially prominent family in Victoria which played a significant role in the founding and subsequent development of the Island Arts and Crafts Society.  

He was a “man of parts” and a distinguished citizen in his own right, and although it was Lady Sarah and her daughter Josephine who are best known for their contribution to the local art scene, Lindley did in fact display evidence of the family’s artistic gifts and showed his work in the Society’s annual exhibitions from 1913 to 1935.

Born in New Westminster, BC, in 1867, Lindley Crease followed in the footsteps of his father, Sir Henry, a Justice of the BC Supreme Court. Educated in England, he studied law and was called to the BC bar in 1890, and later founded his own law firm. He was actively involved in Church affairs and in Provincial politics and among other distinctions he was President of the Island branch of the League of Nations.

He was a devoted lover of the arts and is remembered for an impassioned speech before the Victoria Real Estate Board in 1935 in which he advocated the establishment of an art gallery for the City of Victoria to be considered without delay. He suggested that a permanent art gallery would not only foster and stimulate art but would have utilitarian value as an additional major tourist attraction and would give visitors a flattering impression of the city’s aesthetic sense. 

Crease’s artistic ability found expression in his hobby of mountaineering, drawn by his sense of natural and environmental values. He derived much enjoyment from attending the annual camps of the Alpine Club of Canada in the Canadian Rockies. He was a keen climber and scaled the likes of mount Arrowsmith and Mount Baker in Washington State. However, his main concern was finding vantage points to savor vistas of snow-clad peaks, icefields, and glaciers. This afforded him the chance to exercise his talents in sketching and painting. 

His drawing ability is demonstrated in two early sketches of the Island’s Maltby Lake (shown here) though to have been done in the 1892-93 period. Apart from being an avid sketcher he was also, as illustrated, a competent landscape artist. 

Lindley Crease, K, C., widely respected for his integrity, kindness, and social consciousness, died at the Victoria family home, Pentrelew, in 1940 at the age of seventy-two.