Monday, April 30, 2012

Mildred Peel as Lady Ross?

GWR Ross
MAY 15, 1907

ROSS, G.W.R. Hon.
PEEL, Mildred Miss.
PEEL, John R.
PEEL, Paul

The marriage of Hon. G.W.R. Ross of the
Canadian senate, former premier of Ontario to
Miss Mildred Peel, daughter of the late John
R. Peel of London, a well known sculptor and
teacher of art, and mechanical. And
architectural drawing, was celebrated in the
home of Hon. G.W. Ross, S. Elmsey place by
Rev. Dr. Milligan pastor of Old St. Andrews
More to article see original

Miss Peel, like her distinguished brother the 
late Paul Peel, whose gold medal salon picture 
"After the Bath." Is so well known received.
Her art education (was) in Paris.

(There are a couple of awkward phrases in this posting.  This was left, pretty much intact as I found it, to maintain its integrity with the original text. See the link)    Reference: Please click here

Students of art, may find it interesting that Mildred (Ross) Peel, seems to have moved to Edmonton with her   husband GW Ross, Its like fitting together pieces of an elaborate jig saw puzzle following her  life.  Note too, that her brother Paul was noted for his painting, 'After the Bath'. Mildred receives scant notice for her artistic skills other then she studied in Paris.  

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Laura Secord by Mildred Peel

This painting of Laura Secord was painted by Mildred Peel.

Mildred Peel gives us a painting of Laura as an older woman. She looks severe, and her bonnet and bow, while being of the style of her age,  look strangely like the apparel worn by English judges.  Even her bonnet looks somewhat like a powdered wig. 

I am exaggerating, of course. My imagination takes me to strange places at times. Mildred was the sister of noted artist Paul Peel. (After the Bath). He died at the young age of 32. Mildred (Millie?) died at 64. Mildred attended the Philadelphia School of Fine Art. She was also an excellent sculptor who created a significant number of busts of prominent citizen. Mildred was for a time a member of California's Laguna Beach .Art Association. 

My online research revealled that when she lived in Laguna, she was known as "Lady Ross". This presents a great mystery.  This sounds like there is a "Sir" in the background.

The next blog entry tells the story behind this mystery.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Laura Secord by Marlene Hilton Moore

Marlene Hilton Moore  is the sculptor who created this version of Laura. Laura is dressed in the fashion of the women of her age. She's certainly not the fashionable, elegant, Laura that has been trade marked for a chocolate company.

There's something of the Canadian understatement of our iconic figures in this work  When we look at this work we see ordinary Laura - who runs with her hands pulling up her long dress.  While her action of running through the forest to warn of American invaders may seem heroic - its just something that had to be done and plain old Laura was just the person to do the job.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Taking Picasso Out of the Box

Get ready Toronto.  This Picasso work has just been removed from its crate.
The Picasso exhibition is coming to the Art Gallery of Ontario on May 1, 2012. The show will include the following paintings.

  • The Death of Casagemas, one of the first works he created in Paris in 1901;
  • Autoportrait (Self-Portrait), the iconic 1906 self-portrait;
  • the 1904 Blue-period masterpiece Celestina (The Woman with One-Eye), and The Two Brothers, a 1906 work from his Rose period;
  • landmark African-inspired artwork that led to the advent of Cubism, including studies for the 1907 
  • masterpiece Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Three Figures Beneath a Tree, 1907-08;
  • examples of his genre-defining Analytic and Synthetic Cubism artworks, including the 1909-10 Sacré Coeur, 1911’s seminal Man with a Guitar and 1915’s Violin;
  • Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race), a 1922 masterwork from his Neoclassical period, and 1925’s The Kiss, from his Surrealist period;
  • a series of sculptures created during the Second World War, including 1942’s Bull’s Head, and two 
  • bronzes, 1943’s Death’s Head and 1950’s The Goat;
  • The Bathers, the 1956 life-sized, six-piece figurative sculpture series created during a summer in Cannes; and
  • The Matador, the famous self-portrait painted in 1970, three years before his death

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Gold in a Handbag: Thomson and Varley Paintings Bought at a Garage Sale

Well well. Look what turned up at a garage sale.  The news has been full of this story in the past week, about how someone struck gold and bought a Group of Seven, Varley watercolour,  and this Thomson painting.

Camille Bains, writes in a Canada Press release, about that magical moment of discovery:
"The Maynard's Auctions spokeswoman Kate Bellringer said Friday the landscape believed to be by Thomson — in pale blues, purples and peachy colours — was one of two paintings that an older gentleman brought to her in a shopping bag in January after finding them at the garage sale. 
"When he brought them in he didn't quite know what they were so he was just, you know, `Take it or leave it,' kind of thing and I said I would be happy to look into it for him."flip side of the coin, is of course, the crushing disappointment the person who sold it must have felt when they let such a treasure slip through their hands."

When I read that I sense a certain downplaying of the situation.  For one thing, no "older gentleman," with gold in a handbag, would make his way to a reputable auction house, if he didn't suspect that he had a treasure in his hands.

I did a Google Search for this story and there is no doubt that this is Canada's Art Story of year.  There are 43 articles in Canadian newspapers, from across the country.

The Thomson painting is going under the hammer on May 16th, with Maynard's Contemporary and Canadian Art Auction.

The picture is a magnificent skyscape. The sky has a beautiful application of peach, cream and violet hues, with a necklace of hills and water beneath it. I like the warm cream tones edged by cool blue white clouds.    The paint is generously dolloped onto a piece of plywood. There is no foreground with a branch of tree hanging above, or the presence of land below, which leads to the speculation that it might have been painted from a boat.

Lovely stuff.

Excerpt from the Winnipeg Free Press. Please click here


Friday, April 20, 2012

Henry Purdy Breaks the Rules with 'In The Shade'.

Check this one out.  This work by Henry Purdy of Prince Edward Island wins 'The Portrait's Gold Star Award.  Its creative, complex, unique and possibly iconoclastic, and if I thought a bit more I could likely add a few more adjectives.

What really gets me is that Purdy breaks every rule in the painter's handbook.  Let's begin with the focal point.  Take a good look at the work and tell me what you think it is?

It seems pretty evident that its a naked leg. Not a face, not a whole body. A single, naked leg. Does this not seem a little odd?

But there is more.  The seated person on the left side of the glider is so lost in shadows that the person is all but non existent. And if that isn't enough, Purdy uses a network of patterned glider swing lines, to literally cross out the person who sits on the right side. And in the end, the only part of the body untouched is the lower leg.

Now, look where its located.  Smack, dab, in the middle of the work.

Even  the greenest beginner, will tell you that the focal sweet spot of a painting is most often located in one of the quadrants of the painting.  And that's just the beginning.

Most artists would agree that the preferred visual pathway which leads to the focal point is from left to right - which in our culture, is our natural route of vision for reading a line of text. But, Purdy, mysteriously, leads us from the right corner into the work.

Let's return to the focal leg. The two people who sit on the glider are engaged in conversation. You have to really work to get a good mental imprint of what is happening here, for the focal point is obfuscated, by a fractured assortment of broken and confused light patterns. There are the lines of the glider, and there are cast shadows and there is a line of trees running across the canvas.

Does that 2x4, which runs obliquely into the painting, on the right side of the seated person, have any function?  Is it really part of the gliding swing? If so, then where is its balancing piece on the left side?

A path of light usually takes us somewhere in a work, and it makes a contribution to the order,  pattern and intentionality of the work. The fragmenated, (although the lines are doubtlessly functional to the operation of the glider) set of glider lines appear to scribble the owner of the leg right out of existence.

There is no easy passage into this painting. Purdy doesn't craft his work for the viewer's convenience.
This is a painting which says, "Art doesn't need to be defined by the limitation of rules. It exists onto itself  and the path it follows is decided by the artist and not by conventional wisdom, rules, or tradition."

And just when I settle back and get smug about this realization,  I hear the quiet inner voice of Purdy whispering in my ear, "Well if you don't have rules, then what is left  not much just- a painting with a sunlit leg?"

In the end, I wonder if the artist isn't making a statement about the style of artistic realism.  Is he telling us that the kind of realism led by Chistopher Pratt and Alex Colville builds its power on a kind of naked simplicity and that if you overwhelm a realistic work with complexity its power is lost?

Its all so very philosophical isn't it?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Don't Tell me.......This Doesn't Look Like Brock? Afraid not.

DEREK GORDANIER The Recorder and Times Brockville's Marie Barnett, left, and Katie Pagnello of Addison discuss what should happen if the city's well-known bust of its namesake War of 1812 hero Sir Isaac Brock turns out to be inaccurate. A Canadian artist has announced he will unveil later this year a "forensic facial reconstruction" of what he believes Brock really looked like in life.
Source: The Recorder & Times Online. Please click here to read the complete article.

Strange isn't it, how we take things for granted?  You would think that a statue of Sir Isaac Brock would look like Sir Isaac Brock - right?


Well, it seems that  artist Christian Corbet who is preparing to make a statue of Sir Isaac, thinks that sculptor Hamilton McCarthy, who created the above statue, took creative liberties.

This article takes the reader into the intriguing  research, Christian Corbet took to create a legitimate replicate of Brock's features.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Walrus: A Remarkable Publication

I have recently had the pleasure of exchanging email letters with Anita Stanusik of The Walrus.  What excited me about our communications, is that she introduced me to a premier Canadian magazine.  This is the first magazine I have shared with readers of 'The Portrait', and I do so because its a reflection of my respect for this publication..

THE WALRUS FOUNDATION is a charitable non-profit organization with an educational mandate to promote public debate on matters vital to our country. The foundation is dedicated to supporting Canadian writers, artists, readers, and ideas. Our job is to create and open up discussion that are currently stirring up debate in Canada. Across the country we look for outlets to start a conversation of various artistic aspects in hopes of keeping the conversation going.

We host over 30 events a year in commitment to achieve our goals. Our events not only generate temporary interest but long lasting impression on the relevance of the arts in Canada. Our work with various Canadian museums, galleries and artists are what help us properly and accurately represent the trends, issues and hot topics in art today. We also publish a magazine 10 times a year that aid The Walrus to connect with the readers on various social topics. Check out our website for great articles and podcasts that relate to visual arts in

The Walrus truly appreciates Canadian art in every form as well as giving our readers the chance to contribute to our cause. We want to settle the score with the importance of the arts in Canada.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tom Thomson by Ross King

I'm unsure where I have been living for the past 5 years - maybe living under a mushroom.  But, my door to life swung recently swung open when I discovered the world of 'The Walrus'. I admit that I was pleasantly surprised. 

I discovered, in 'The Walrus',  a premier Canadian magazine which features articles on the cultural identity of Canada.  'The Portrait, will  have more to say about this magazine in the  near future, but for the meantime, if you click on the link below, you will hear a fascinating audio report, from an article on Tom Thomson, published in the November, 2010 issue and written by Ross King.

Be prepared to gain new insights into Thomson's life.Please click here.
To listen to the audio podcast of this story, please click here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Peter Rindisbacher Boy Artist, Earns a Place in Canadian Art History

I know. I'm attracted to historical paintings. This one is called "Two of the Company's Officers Travelling in a Canoe Made of Painting...."

The Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online provides this information about Rindisbacher:

      Peter Rindisbacher’s family were German-speaking Lutherans. His father was a middle-class farmer who began to work as a veterinarian in 1806. Peter sketched continuously from a very early age, and was encouraged and supervised by his parents. In 1818 he briefly received instruction in landscape painting from Jakob Samuel Weibel, a Bernese school miniaturist who left a strong imprint on his protégé’s style. Peter’s other interest was the army; he had been a volunteer drummer boy in a Bern company of grenadiers at the age of ten.
      Peter’s father was a restless man. Thus when Captain Rudolph von May, an officer in De Meuron’s Regiment, visited Bern to recruit settlers on behalf of Lord Selkirk [Douglas*] for the Red River settlement (Man.) and described the colony’s agricultural prospects in fabulous terms, he was seduced. On 30 May 1821 he and his family left Dordrecht, Netherlands, with a contingent of more than 160 emigrants, mostly Swiss, aboard the Lord Wellington, bound for York Factory (Man.) on Hudson Bay

Young Peter lived on the prairies with his family and he attracted early notice for his artistic abilities.

The young painter’s subjects included the Métis, company officials, and settlement life, but Rindisbacher was especially inspired by (and commissioned to paint) the exotic, colourful, and dramatic life of the Indians. Bulger allegedly arranged a winter expedition to give him the opportunity to sketch a buffalo hunt. Only a few paintings, however, document the increasingly desperate plight of Rindisbacher’s own people. For the most part artisans, they were totally unfit to face the privations of a farming life at Red River. Man-made and natural disasters mocked their clumsy efforts to eke out a living. They began trickling south. In the spring of 1826 a devastating flood combined with an infestation of grub-worms discouraged the remaining die-hards, among them Pierre Rindisbacher. With his family and other Swiss settlers he left Red River on 11 July 1826 and settled at a place called Gratiot’s Grove (near Darlington, Wis.).
      Peter continued to paint Indian views, adding to his repertoire, but he also expanded his range of subjects to include miniature portraits of friends and local citizens. He visited St Louis in June 1829, and then travelled to Prairie du Chien (Wis.) to record a treaty-making ceremony and to do studies of Sauk and Fox Indians. By year’s end he was living in St Louis, making miniatures in pencil, crayon, and water-colour. He had never lost his interest in the military life and both in the Red River settlement and on the American prairies was constantly in the company of soldiers; in St Louis he became a volunteer in the St Louis Grays. Army officers, through their contacts with the American social élite, brought their young painter friend to the notice of the buying public. In local newspapers the officers vaunted him as possessing “a genius as fruitful, and an imagination as vivid as the scenes amongst which he has dwelt” and asserted that “these will enable him, in cultivating his fine talents, to throw aside the threadbare subjects of the schools, and give to the world themes as fresh as the soil upon which he was bred; – glowing as the newness of nature; and picturesque as a combination of bold scenery, with bolder man and manners, will afford.” His friends sent scenes to the American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine, which published them in its pages. But the promise of success was cut short in 1834 when Rindisbacher died, possibly of cholera, at the age of 28. He seems to have been married and to have had two children.
His paintings in his short life, earned for him an important place in the development of the Canadian Visual Arts.

You can see more in the Canadian Biography Online by clicking here.
Wikipedia also has information on Peter. Please click here.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Beaverbrook Art Gallery - The Provincial Art Gallery of New Brunswick

Its been good to track the journey of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in New Brunswick.

Readers of 'The Portrait', may recall the struggle the gallery had with Beaverbrook descendants who wanted back the donations that Lord Beaverbrook (Max Aitken) made to the gallery, many long years ago.

Push came to shove and the entire affair ended up in court.  I guess when is a bequeathment no longer a bequeathment?  The family which seems to have been a bit cash strapped, was in the habit of borrowing paintings from the collection, then taking them back to England and selling them off.   Anyway, the entire process ended in court and The Portrait', reported it as a win-loss situation.  The Gallery kept the paintings but paid the court costs.

A recent visit to the Gallery's website, reveals that their fortunes have turned for the better since then.
The Gallery has since become the Provincial Art Gallery of New Brunswick.  I don't pretend to be a website critic, but I did enjoy being introduced to their director, Bernard Riordon, and their curator, Terry Graff.
The site, has the usual things you would expect such as a list of exhibitions, and an opportunity for patrons to donate. And, befitting of a bilingual province, the site is bilingual.  Also of note is their outreach into the educational system.

My only criticism, which arises from what takes me to Provincial online galleries, is the absence of pictures of their collection.  There is a search bar, what when you are unfamiliar with their collection what do you search for?

Taking all in all, its good to see that 'The Beaverbrook' has taken a step forward and that their collection now falls under the aegis of belonging to the people of New Brunswick and is a provincial art treasure.

To visit the site, please click here.

Previous 'Portrait' articles on The Beaverbrook Art Gallery.
Click here and here

Sunday, April 8, 2012

William Kurek: Prophet with a Paintbrush

I first met William Kurelek in the spring of 1975. The Canadian artist, then in the prime of his career, was displaying his paintings in the back room of a church hosting a regional United Church meeting. I skipped the afternoon sessions and instead got to know this friendly, down-to-earth man and his work.

That fall, St. Matthew’s United Church in Richmond Hill, Ont., gave me a parting gift of money in appreciation for my years of ministry there. By then my wife and I had fallen in love with Kurelek’s warm, bold colours and unapologetic Christian messages. We used the gift to purchase one of his paintings.

This involved visiting the Kureleks in their modest home in east-end Toronto. William had just returned from Winnipeg, where he had painted 24 nativity scenes with distinctly Canadian settings. The collection was published the following year in one of his most popular books, A Northern Nativity.

I especially liked one picture showing a dark-skinned Jesus sitting on his mother’s lap and digging into a Christmas dinner with a bunch of rugged lumberjacks. My wife favoured another depicting Mary and the holy child sitting in front of a Christmas tree in a Quebec farmhouse. Mom and dad and their six kids are kneeling in front of Jesus, who is pointing to places of need on a little globe resting in his tiny hands.

We compromised by commissioning a painting that shows Jesus and his mother in Kurelek’s father’s barn. We see the rear end of two cows and a couple of cats, the white one looking at Jesus and the black one staring at cow dung.

Kurelek eventually included our three kids in the painting — two of them peering around a barn door, the other gazing at Jesus through the window. The painting hangs in our dining room and continues to give us comfort and delight.

Evidently his work has the same effect on others today. A new Kurelek retrospective, The Messenger, is drawing big crowds on its cross-country tour. Opening in Winnipeg last September, the exhibition of over 80 paintings is showing at the Art Gallery of Hamilton until the end of this month before moving on to Victoria for the rest of the summer. The popularity of the retrospective is significant. Throughout his career, Kurelek was dismissed by some in the mainstream art establishment as an overly Catholicized oddball. Today, however, 30 years after the last major Kurelek exhibition, a new generation of art lovers seems less anxious about the overtly religious themes in his paintings and more enchanted by the colours, form and abundant life in the canvases of this Canadian Brueghel.

There’s no question that Kurelek was at times a troubled man whose inner struggles found expression in his paintings. The eldest child of Ukrainian immigrant parents, he grew up on a farm in rural Manitoba, where his tender, artistic spirit was crushed by an overbearing father who despised art. In his mid-20s, Kurelek fled to England. But there was no escape from his mental anguish. He ended up in a psychiatric hospital where a Catholic nurse introduced him to a heavenly Father who doesn’t scold and disparage but loves.

Kurelek returned to Canada in 1959 a devout Catholic and remained so until 1977, when he died of cancer at age 50. “I don’t consider Canadian citizenship nearly as important as citizenship in the kingdom of heaven,” he wrote in 1975. “After all, each Canadian citizen is that for only a brief span of 70 years, but a citizen of the next world forever. At the same time, however, I am proud of being a Canadian, just as I am of my Ukrainian ancestry. And I truly love this country.”

In the current exhibition, you can see that love flooding his canvases. Kurelek’s Canada was a country of jovial lumberjacks eating breakfast, of big-city snowstorms and vast prairie landscapes teeming with lovingly rendered detail. And those colours! How did he get such rich greens and yellows and blues?

The knock on Kurelek has long been that he was too religious for the good of his craft. If the yardstick for Canadian art is the idealized, unpopulated Group of Seven landscape, well, maybe he was. But genius has a way of revealing itself on its own terms. This exhibition shows Kurelek rejoicing in the glories of God’s world because he has no other choice. He has been called.

The exhibition also reveals his dark side. Kurelek refuses to shut out the looming holocausts at the outer rim of possibility. The Autumn of Life, for example, shows the Kurelek clan posing for a family photo in front of his parents’ farmhouse. The scene is mellow and heart-tugging — until you notice the ominous mushroom cloud exploding on the far horizon. Were Kurelek still alive today, you can bet that his art would be screaming about the coming storms of climate change.

In 1975, after Kurelek had finished the nativity painting we had commissioned, we invited him and his family to stay with us for the weekend in our new home in Bracebridge, Ont. He brought our painting, along with a dozen or so from the Northern Nativity series, strapping them onto the roof of his battered station wagon.

It was a fun weekend. But it transpired that Kurelek didn’t want to display his works during worship on Sunday. He preferred, he said, simply to preach. We finally reached a compromise. I held up the paintings and he talked about their religious meaning. It was one of the best sermons I never gave.

Article by Rev. John McTavish (minister emeritus at Trinity United in Huntsville, Ont)
As published in The United Church Observor
To see the article in its original context, please click here.

Above Painting: Autobiographical Reminscences of Youth, 1968.
by Wm. Kurelek, Art Gallery of Ontario, The Thomson Collection.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Dennis Page and Oliver Hill Create Titanic Stamp

Toronto:  Canada Post has unveiled 5 commemorative stamps to mark the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

The stamps, created by Halifax decorative designers Dennis Page and Oliver Hill  combine the image of the ship with elements that show Canada's involvement in the rescue efforts required after its sinking.

"This was the biggest  man made moving object on earth, that set off on her maiden voyage, hit an iceberg and ended in disaster", Page said.

"That really stuck with me and I was going to show that feeling."

Written by Laura Pederson
Published in CNews
Please click here to read the article in context.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Design on the edge: the artist studios on Fogo Island, Newfoundland and ...

The next two videos about the Fogo Island Art School, leave me to dream about making the trip.  I would love nothing better then to paint icebergs.

Fredericks-Artworks Blog, copying policy

The Canadian Copyright act, section 29 reports on fairdealing, that it is not an infringement to reproduce someone else's work for research, study, criticism, review or to report. Which pretty much sums up what this site is about. All content sources, be they artists, printed references, and website url's are respectfully identified on this site. http://http//

Mission Statement
A Portrait of the Visual Arts in Canada, is intended to celebrate the richness of Canada's visual arts, and to promote the arts in Canada.

Statement of Intent
I make every effort to credit the sources of information used in this blog and to obtain the permission and cooperation of all the works presented by living artists. I try, as much as possible to use works from public sources eg. national and provincial collections, of deceased artists. If for any reason, any artist disapproves of anything written about them or their work the artist is encouraged to request withdrawal of the content.