The Rocky Mountains, from Calgary to Vancouver by Mrs. Adelaide Langford, 1916, as seen in the lobby of Vancouver’s Waterfront Station. Born circa 1856 Adelaide Elizabeth Winyard Hurd, she passed away in 1939, living to about age 83. From The Hedley Gazette, March 29, 1917:
Review of C.P.R. Work for 1916
Important Undertakings Marked the Activities of the Company During the Year
The year 1916 was an interesting one in the history of the Canadian Pacific Railway. It has been a year of progress even though the Dominion is struggling in a great war…
…The walls of the spacious waiting hall of the new Canadian Pacific Railway Station at Vancouver have been recently beautified by a series of rural decorations representing the principal mountains from Calgary to Vancouver. The decorations are the work of Mrs. Adelaide Langford, an artist with a wide reputation…
While Mrs. Adelaide Langford may have had a wide reputation at the time of the article, she is not well remembered today. I came upon an article from 1927 when she was about 71 which provides further insights into her work. Below is a transcript of the article from 1927 seen above:
The Morning Leader - August 6, 1927
Pictures by Canadian Woman Adorn Many European Homes
Duke of Cambridge and Other Noted Collectors Have Acquired Paintings From Brush of Vancouver Artist
To have the work of one’s life adorn many of the stately mansions of the world is the proud achievement of one western woman in the person of Mrs. Adelaide Langford of Vancouver, B.C., many of whose canvases are hung in old ancestral homes in Europe, the late Duke of Cambridge, Sir Augustus Nanton and other distinguished collectors having acquired her work throughout England, Canada and the United States.
Mrs. Langford, whose pictures bear the signature “Adelaide Langford,” is the widow of the late Capt. H. Ayliffe Langford, and is a truly western artist of no mean ability. She is a student of the Slade school, London University, England, and is also a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, having studied under Frederick W. Freer, W. M. R. French and John H. Vanderpoel of Chicago, and has completed most of her work in the west. She inherits her artist gifts from parents and grandparents who were painters. She is the daughter of the late Thomas Gladwin Hurd, formerly of Toronto.
Mrs. Langford paints in a broad, free style, which has the distinction of the Barbizon school and marked individuality. She is a wonderful colorist and her canvases are truly decorative as well as restful. They are pictures which one can live with from day to day, finding added charm as they become more familiar. Among her recent works is an oil painting of the buffalo at Banff, Alta., completed just before the big drive when so many hundreds were extinguished. This hangs in the rotunda of the Royal Alexandra hotel in Winnipeg.
In an exhibit she is presenting now at Vancouver she is showing a painting of the Indian reserve at West Vancouver and the Indian village at North Vancouver; these are particularly attractive. She is also displaying her “Fraser Canyon,” painted at Yale, B.C., where the waters roar and tumble hundreds of feet below the railway line, and which is one of the beauty spots of the Rockies. In this Mrs. Langford has shown her knowledge and understanding of the great outdoors. The collection also includes pictures of English and continental scenery.
Mrs. Langford lost her husband during service of the late war; her son also served for several years in the motor boat patrol in the North Sea as well as Russia on special service and in the Arctic, for which he was decorated by the British and Russian governments. Mrs. Langford’s own charitable work will always remain in the minds of those who were closely associated with her during that time, and she was never at any time too engrossed in her own troubles that she could not find time to aid those less fortunate than herself.
[the original article incorrectly named John D. Vanderpoel instead of John H. Vanderpoel, and the Barbizon school was misspelled as the Barbazon school; these two errors are shown corrected in the text above]
According to Gary Sim’s British Columbia Artists:
An article "The Fine Arts", published June 9, 1923 in the Western Women’s Weekly, noted that Langford was a critic of the Studio Club. The Vancouver Studio Club and School of Art was a predecessor organization to the B.C. Society of Fine Arts, and began exhibiting in Vancouver as early as 1904. Founding members of the group included T.W. Fripp and Spencer Perceval Judge.
And according to National Soul: Canadian Mural Painting, 1860s - 1930s, “Langford’s brother-in-law was general superintendent of the Pacific Division of the Canadian Pacific Railway and likely was helpful in securing the commission for her.”
Ironically, the placement of these paintings at Waterfront Station so far from our line of sight has probably helped to preserve them. At the time of writing, it is not clear if any of her other paintings have survived. The Royal Alexandra Hotel in Winnipeg was demolished in 1971, though the dining room from the hotel has been preserved and rebuilt in Cranbrook at the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel. An email to the museum has determined that no paintings were included in the reconstructed hotel dining room. The CPR Archives has no record of the painting’s whereabouts either. It is unknown if paintings from the collection of Prince George, the late Duke of Cambridge, or Sir Augustus Nanton have survived. Just to be sure, I’ve sent a letter to the senior archivist at Windsor Castle…perhaps one of Adelaide Langford’s paintings has been passed down to the Royal family and remains in their collection to this day. I’ll keep you posted if I receive a reply…
Update! I did receive a reply from Buckingham Castle, and there is no record of any art by Mrs. Adelaide Langford remaining in the Royal collection! The archivist suspects it was auctioned off after the death of Prince George, the 2nd Duke of Cambridge by one of the major auctioneers of the day. The search continues!