An article about Francis Robert (Frank) Lewis, from the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle on March 31, 1982 entitled Murals Vital Part of Program via Google News Archives. From the article:

An experienced artist, Lewis was a top commercial illustrator in eastern Canada in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and was awarded both the Toronto and Montreal Art Director awards. He was named Canadian Illustrator of the Year in 1958.

His style of art began to change in the late 1960s, as he began creating what he calls ‘street art’, murals and pictures on temporary fencing, construction fencing, or buildings.

Since then the artist has done murals at the Carnegie Library, in Vancouver; the Westerly Hotel and Zorba’s Restaurant, in Courtenay; and a painting of 385 individual portraits for Daon, in Vancouver.

The City of Vancouver art registry also mentions that Frank painted this series of 385 portraits called Portrait of Vancouver. The site goes on to state the mural was painted on 1700’ of hoarding around the Daon construction site at Burrard and Pacific actually, it was at Burrard and Hastings (the gold building across the street from the Marine Building). This building at 999 West Hastings, now known as AXA Place, was previously known as the Daon Building. Construction began in 1980 and was completed in 1981. These hoarding sections were auctioned off to support the Children’s Hospital, so perhaps one of these works of art is still hiding in someone’s basement! 

I spoke with a former executive of the Daon Development Corporation who helped to point me in the right direction with these works. He mentioned that the late Jack Poole was also a co-founder of the company, and he described how the real estate and property development company also developed and built 666 Burrard, one of the largest buildings in Vancouver in terms of square footage. Daon Development Corporation was later acquired by BCE (Bell Canada Enterprises), though the Reichmann’s Olympia & York Developments were also interested in the firm’s assets. The Daon name, according to this page, was dissolved in April of 1986 (no relation to the current Daon, Inc). In 1989, Jack Poole went on to co-found VLC Properties, now known as Concert Properties.

I meant to post this article long ago, and sadly Frank passed away earlier this year. From his obituary:

…his last public painting, produced in his eightieth year, hangs in the Healing Centre in the Royal Jubilee Hospital. It is called Honour Creation and is full of symbolism from his Metis heritage. With his wife Margaret he travelled on projects to Bolivia, Sri Lanka and Malaysia. They completed some of his largest murals working together for over twenty years…

If anyone has any pictures of Frank Lewis’ Portrait of Vancouver, please let me know! I am wondering if it served as a kind of historical reference or influence on the Beatty Street mural.

Revisiting the So Many Things mural not long after I photographed it reveals it has been white washed. It’s true it had seen better days; now it appears that the proprietors are shopping the site as a commerical / retail opportunity. While they managed to scrub some of the mossy green from the signage, I think they need to work a little harder than this…

Revisiting the So Many Things mural not long after I photographed it reveals it has been white washed. It’s true it had seen better days; now it appears that the proprietors are shopping the site as a commerical / retail opportunity. While they managed to scrub some of the mossy green from the signage, I think they need to work a little harder than this…

Lost David Spencer Department Store Diamond Jubilee Murals Pt 2

This is a followup post on the long lost Spencer’s department store murals originally posted here. A few clarifications I need to make over last week’s post; I originally said Golden Jubilee, but in fact, it was the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation in 1927. And to be clear, David Spencer had passed away in 1920, but it was still common to refer to the department store as David Spencer Limited. To bring you up to speed, I’ve been trying to find out just what happened to these 1927 murals painted by John Innes and G.H. Southwell. The trail goes cold in December of 1948 when Spencer’s is acquired by the Timothy Eaton Company.

At this point in time, Eaton’s takes control of the Spencer’s store in Vancouver, transforming it into an Eaton’s store. In 1972, it was time for Eaton’s to move into the brand new Pacific Centre complex. Then on May 5, 1989, Simon Fraser University at Harbour Centre officially opened its doors in the Spencer Building at 515 West Hastings. In search of the murals, I looked high and low, asking everyone I could think of, including the Vancouver Archives, the Vancouver Art Gallery Library, SFU, the Archives of Ontario which holds the Eaton’s archive, Gary Sim, Jaleen Grove, the VPL and more, but no one seemed to know the murals’ whereabouts.

I recently acquired from MacLeod’s Books the actual brochure that Spencer’s handed out in 1927 titled Tableaux of Canadian History and Industry. The VanArchives also has a copy. Regretfully, it contains no images of the murals, but it provides some context to the scenes and the Jubilee celebrations. It seems there was also a display of significant historical events in Canada’s history which they called the Historical Tableaux. This was executed by George Patterson, adapted from pictures by Charles W. Jefferys and Henry Sandham in Nelson’s Pictures of Canadian History. Furthermore, there was a series of Industrial Exhibits from Canadian manufacturers which were displayed in the store. It was like a mini Exposition!

I was about to give up early when I finally uncovered a significant clue! Page 76 of the book National Soul - Canadian Mural Painting, 1860s - 1930s by Marylin J. McKay states:

In 1927 John Innes (assisted by George Southwell) painted ten panels for the Vancouver department store of David Spencer (some panels destroyed, some panels in storage in the Art Gallery of the University of British Columbia). They represent logging, mining, fishing, and agriculture. One panel includes an image of Simon Fraser on the Fraser River…

So there you have it! I forgot to ask UBC! The book continues to offer clues, stating the paintings were removed from the store and donated to UBC, as noted in the Vancouver Sun on March 24, 1949. And I subsequently learned that according to the Spencer’s file at UBC, these two paintings did not survive this donation:

  • Captain Vancouver’s Ships at Nootka
  • Mackenzie Menaced by Indians at Bella Coola

Perhaps culturally, this is no great loss; early colonial depictions of First Nations are too often historically inaccurate, demeaning, and demoralizing. Had these scenes been painted by the most respected First Nations artist of the day, they certainly would have had different titles! While these murals may have a colonial naivete about them, I still feel they are a notable reflection of their time.

Since the book A National Soul was written in 2001, things have changed. Upon contacting the Belkin Art Gallery at UBC, I’ve learned that some of the 8 surviving murals were deaccessioned from their archives in August of 2008. After requesting photographs, 5 images including 4 hastily made panoramic photographs were sent documenting their poor condition. The murals were indeed a pale reflection of their former glory. The colours muted and the canvases scratched and torn, these murals certainly did not resemble the vibrant colours seen in the printed Spencer’s pamphlet from 1936. The quality of the artwork, logistical issues surrounding their storage, and the daunting task of restoration seemed too great a burden for the art gallery to maintain.

I’ve taken the roughly stitched panoramas and tried to simulate a restoration of colours to give you a slightly better indication of what the paintings may have looked like. Unfortunately, the quality of the photograph of Simon Fraser’s Canoes Descending the Fraser River is too poor to accurately correct, but at least you have some indication of the colours that cannot be seen in the black and white photograph. This painting was perhaps aesthetically the best work in the series, and it’s a shame it has not found it’s way to the art collection at SFU.

Of the four panoramic murals, the Pioneer Fishing mural and Pioneer Farming mural appear to have the same dimensions. Likewise, the Pioneer Logging and Pioneer Mining murals appear to have matching dimensions. While we may not be able to determine precisely where these paintings hung inside Spencer’s, future photographic discoveries may one day help to answer this question. I do think the Pioneer Fishing mural would have looked handsome on display somewhere in town today, even in its unrestored state. The scene clearly depicts the Burrard Inlet and the North Shore Mountains, one of the most popular and recognizable views in the city. It did appear to have been in the best condition of the 5 photographed murals.

I had presumed that deaccession most certainly meant these paintings were now lost, but in fact, this is not the case. There was one other person I wanted to ask about these murals, and as it turns out, this was precisely the person I needed to speak with. Upon emailing Cheryle Harrison of Conserv-Arte, I’ve learned that these four pioneer murals have been entrusted to her! Cheryle was the conservator for the Southwell paintings in the B.C. Legislature and she led the restoration of the Malaspina Hotel murals created by EJ Hughes, Orville Fisher, and Paul Goranson, so there is perhaps no more qualified guardian for their future. As for the other four murals of historical scenes, I’m not quite certain where they’ve ended up. Lost, destroyed, stolen, or deaccessioned, I have yet to track them down. To review, here are the missing titles once again:

  • Captain Vancouver Exploring Burrard Inlet
  • Ships of Spain off Point Grey
  • Simon Fraser’s Canoes Descending the Fraser River
  • Trading with the Indians at Fort Victoria, 1845

And so, I must conclude my epic search for the long lost Spencer’s department store murals (for now at least). Like so many murals around the world, they have slipped into the past, nearly forgotten. The story behind these murals seems to me almost as fragile as the murals themselves. Having pieced together the details above, I take some consolation in the fact that their story has once again been told. There are so few specimens that do survive, increased awareness of the rarity and fragility of historical murals is perhaps one of the best possible outcomes of this quest. The next time you see a mural in situ, be sure to treasure it!

Lost David Spencer Department Store Golden Diamond Jubilee Murals Pt 1

This is the epic story of a forgotten art project that dates back to the time of Canada’s 50th 60th birthday celebration of Confederation, July of 1927. Allow me to briefly paint the backdrop to this story. The location: the newly renovated David Spencer department store in Vancouver (now the home of SFU Harbour Centre). The commission: a series of 10 historical paintings by two prominent artists of the day, John Innes and G.H. Southwell. What has become of these murals today? Read on…

The earliest account I have mentioning the murals at Spencer’s is the Tuesday, July 5, 1927 edition of the Vancouver Daily Province (page 22). The article gives notice of the upcoming unveiling of 10 paintings and is illustrated with this Vancouver Archives photo.

It describes how the pictures have been painted as part of Spencer’s commemoration of Canada’s Diamond Jubilee, and that they will remain on display on the main floor of the building as permanent wall decorations after the Jubilee celebrations. It’s my guess that the series of 8 historical paintings John Innes had completed a few years earlier helped to secure this commission.

This article also gives an indication of the scale of these paintings, citing four by eighteen feet (seems to be the dimensions of Captain Vancouver Exploring Burrard Inlet) as well as seven by eight feet (perhaps Simon Fraser’s Canoes Descending the Fraser River).

The day after the paintings were unveiled, another article appeared in the Vancouver Daily Province on Thursday, July 7, 1927 (page 7). This Vancouver Archives photo depicting Simon Fraser is shown hanging on the wall of the store, along with the President of UBC, the artists, and onlookers (page 24).

The Province article on page 7 goes into greater detail, indicating that the paintings hang on the east, west, and south walls of the main floor of the new building and that the 10 commissioned paintings were completed in a span of just 4 weeks! This suggests to me that the entire commission was something of a last minute afterthought, perhaps coming as late as June, 1927 with a deadline for the first week of July? No wonder John Innes recruited his studio mate G.H. Southwell to assist with the project!

About the presentation of the paintings:

Before the unveiling, Mr. Chris Spencer briefly outlined the thought which prompted the execution of the pictures, declaring he hoped they would serve as a pictorial representation to the rising generation of the part which British Columbia has played in the history of the Dominion.

The second president of UBC, Dr. Leonard S. Klinck spoke about the spirit of the gesture, and Rev. J. Williams Ogden, an artist himself, also gave a few words of appreciation in a concluding speech.

Between these two articles, I’ve put together titles for all 10 paintings. The first group includes 3 historical scenes all set in the year 1792:

  1. Captain Vancouver Exploring Burrard Inlet
  2. Ships of Spain off Point Grey
  3. Captain Vancouver’s Ships at Nootka or
    Captain Vancouver Saluting the Spanish Fort at Nootka

    The second group deals with exploration and trade:

  4. Mackenzie Menaced by Indians at Bella Coola
  5. Simon Fraser’s Canoes Descending the Fraser River
  6. Trading with the Indians at Fort Victoria, 1845

    The third group pays homage to British Columbia’s pioneering industries:

  7. Pioneer Agriculture
  8. Pioneer Fishing
  9. Pioneer Logging
  10. Pioneer Mining

In the absence of showing all 10 murals here, I’ve included 2 drawings from John Innes’ 1926 series of ads for Shelly’s Bread which featured over 50 scenes from British Columbia’s history. These ads ran in newspapers throughout the year, and fortunately, the Vancouver Archives possesses a complete set of these ads in this treasure trove of a scrapbook, donated by the North Shore Museum and Archives in 1987.

Perhaps by now you have an idea how hard it is to piece together the details surrounding this series of murals when the murals themselves no longer appear to exist. With no clear documented chronology, it’s hard to know where to begin. That’s why I was extraordinarily excited when I found the 1936 Golden Jubilee anniversary brochure, featuring a COLOUR image of Captain Vancouver Exploring Burrard Inlet! The brochure states:

This painting, Captain Vancouver Exploring Burrard Inlet—1792, is one of a series of six, depicting memorable scenes in the early history of British Columbia, specially commissioned by David Spencer Limited, and hangs with its companion pictures in the Vancouver branch of this pioneer British Columbia company.

Having found ONE of the 10 paintings in colour, I was now determined to find more! The hunt was on to track down more evidence of these long lost murals! I started asking everyone I knew! This led me to the All Nations Stamp and Coin store in the Dunbar neighbourhood on the off chance that they might know something. Sure enough, they DID know something—the original solid wooden cabinets from the Spencer’s store have been re-purposed in this very store! (unfortunately, they knew nothing about the murals). Hot on the trail, I was hungry for more, and I was not about to give up! But alas, time is running out! This story will continue with a followup post soon! Stay tuned!

ps: Note to the Vancouver Archives: after close scrutiny, it seems to me that at some point in time, one of the photographs in the archives has been mislabeled. Captain Vancouver’s ship Chatham should in fact be called the Ships of Spain off Point Grey, based on the following: 

  1. There never was a painting called Captain Vancouver’s ship Chatham in this series.
  2. The large cross on the sail looks characteristically more Spanish than British. While it’s true that both British and Spanish ships were known to use a red cross, the British were more likely to display the cross of St. George, whereas a ship in the Spanish Armada would be more inclined to display a variation of the Templar cross.
  3. The flag at the top of the mast does not appear to be the Union Jack. Even without seeing the painting in colour, the flag more closely resembles the Spanish flag—two bands of red and a band of yellow in the centre.
  4. There is one other possible title for this painting; it could be Captain Vancouver’s Ships at Nootka / Captain Vancouver Saluting the Spanish Fort at Nootka. However, looking at the surrounding geography, my educated guess says this scene is depicting the North Shore Mountains and not the landscape at Nootka.

A tribute to George Alexander Norris, sculptor 1928-2013. George passed away in Victoria this week.

George created this 95 foot frieze for Vancouver’s Postal Station D at 2300 Pine Street in Vancouver in 1967. Norris is perhaps best known for his iconic sculpture of a crab in the fountain at the Museum of Vancouver (then the Centennial Museum).

Some of his other work was less respected; his 1974 stainless steel pinwheel sculpture at Pacific Centre Plaza was dismantled, given to the City of Surrey, where it remained in storage until it was unceremoniously scrapped.

Another Norris sculpture was situated on the northeast corner of Cambie and Dunsmuir streets in downtown Vancouver, at the west end of the Georgia Viaduct inside what was known as Abutment Park. According to a phone conversation Gary Sim conducted with the artist, the unnamed piece was effectively “a bridge marker” akin to those the Romans once placed at their bridges.

From Gary Sim’s Art & Artists in Exhibition: Vancouver 1890 - 1950, he writes:

The bridge marker, a welded bronze structure, originally had four glass spheres (containing a mix of clear chemicals that would not freeze) mounted in it. These spheres and the welded bronze structure were enclosed in glass panels. The spheres were intended to reflect the lights of cars on the road, as a cat’s eyes would, as the cars went past. Some time later the sculpture began to fall into disrepair. The glass panels leaked and the sculpture filled with water, then the glass panels were all broken or removed. All four glass globes were smashed by vandals. The Editor, while sitting on the Vancouver Public Art Committee in 2000-2001, attempted to start a process that would end in the repair of the sculpture.

In the telephone conversation with the sculptor, Norris indicated that given its damaged state, he would definitely prefer the sculpture be destroyed. Two years later the sculpture remained untended, and in 2004 a large advertising sign was placed in front of it. Shortly afterwards the sculpture was removed and presumably sold for scrap. The concrete foundation remained while longer, but eventually was removed when the entire area was rebuilt for the new condo development.

May the work of George Norris be remembered and respected henceforth and forevermore. For an even more thorough record of his work, see this post over at the excellent blog DesignKultur.

The lost murals of James Blomfield. Until I read the book A National Soul: Canadian Mural Painting, 1860s-1930s by Marylin J. McKay, I was not aware that James Blomfield had painted these two murals in the former Royal Bank building at the corner of West Hastings and Homer (now part of VFS). From  Volume 18 (1905), Issue 10, page 149 of the Canadian Architect and Builder (available online btw), here’s the brief text description:

These wall paintings have an allegorical reference to Vancouver and the Royal Bank. Vancouver Triumphans represents the rising City of Vancouver with Industry on one side and Agriculture on the other. The figure in the lower panel is a personification of Acadia, representing the Maritime Provinces in which the Royal Bank had its origin. The coats of arms inserted in the frame round Acadia are those of the Crown, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and, (at the bottom) the City of Halifax, which is the parent city of the Bank.

Vancouver Triumphans may have actually inspired Paul Goranson consciously or subconsciously when he drew this proposal for the British American Bank Note Company in the 1930s

I can’t tell exactly where these murals would have been painted, but perhaps we can determine this after a closer look inside the building. Though I can’t be sure, these murals may actually be buried under a few layers of paint!

Speaking of lost murals, another one of James Blomfield’s greatest works was destroyed by fire on April 15, 1957. James had painted the ceiling of the ballroom at Government House in Victoria in 1903. From page 31 of A National Soul: Canadian Mural Painting, 1860s-1930s

The work was composed of colossal figures of Indian warriors on the spaces between the ceiling arches, connecting by an interlace design of pine cones, pine needles, dogwood, and other local flora. Painted with the totems (protective spiritual images) of various Northwest Coast Native tribes, these figures appear as “Canadianized” classical personifications.

Images B-08471, C-07768, D-03031, E-02750 of Government House are from the BC Archives. But if anyone has any pre-1957 images in colour, please let me know!

Special thanks to the VPL librarian for your assistance with this post!

Masthead for The World newspaper; “the paper that prints the facts”, dated Monday, March 3, 1913. Note the fine typography employed for the word “Vancouver”, complete with it’s own underline flourish. Thanks to John Mackie for submitting the image! The World was led by the following over its lifetime in print:
1888-1901 J.C. McLagan1901-1905 Mrs. J.C. McLagan1905-1915 L.D.Taylor1915-1921 John Nelson1921-1924 Charles E. CampbellThe masthead above ran during Louis Denison Taylor’s command of the paper, the year following the completion of The World Building (later known as the Bekins Building, now the Sun Tower). Oh, and that “copper” green roof? It’s not actually copper, but simply green paint! The year 1913 was also the year of a worldwide financial depression where the overreach of financial markets caused the building to go into bankruptcy. Ironically, this was also the year that the prestigious Birks store opened at Georgia and Granville, and construction began on the second Hotel Vancouver (1916). 
You can read more of The World’s exploits in the book L.D.: Mayor Louis Taylor and the Rise of Vancouver by Daniel Francis, much of which is accessible online.

Masthead for The World newspaper; “the paper that prints the facts”, dated Monday, March 3, 1913. Note the fine typography employed for the word “Vancouver”, complete with it’s own underline flourish. Thanks to John Mackie for submitting the image! The World was led by the following over its lifetime in print:

1888-1901 J.C. McLagan
1901-1905 Mrs. J.C. McLagan
1905-1915 L.D.Taylor
1915-1921 John Nelson
1921-1924 Charles E. Campbell

The masthead above ran during Louis Denison Taylor’s command of the paper, the year following the completion of The World Building (later known as the Bekins Building, now the Sun Tower). Oh, and that “copper” green roof? It’s not actually copper, but simply green paint! The year 1913 was also the year of a worldwide financial depression where the overreach of financial markets caused the building to go into bankruptcy. Ironically, this was also the year that the prestigious
Birks store opened at Georgia and Granville, and construction began on the second Hotel Vancouver (1916).

You can read more of The World’s exploits in the book L.D.: Mayor Louis Taylor and the Rise of Vancouver by Daniel Francis, much of which is accessible online.

More photos of the most glorious BC mural ever!

thevancouversun:

There were two World’s Fairs held in the United States in 1939 — one in New York, and one in San Francisco. British Columbia decided to have a showcase at the latter, which opened on Feb. 18.

It was located in the Western States Building, and was decorated with very 1939 images of BC — stuffed moose heads, stuffed ram heads, a stuffed ram, a stuffed bear, and some mounted salmon. Amid all the taxidermy was one of the great lost classics of Canadian art — a 12-part mural depicting a “specialized and typical form of British Columbian industrial, social or sporting life.

Sadly, the mural vanished after the fair closed. Ian Thom of the Vancouver Art Gallery thinks it was probably destroyed.

Full story here

Extra, Extra! Newsflash! Full house for amazing Vancouver Sun photo archive show!

It was an amazing burst of the historical floodgates this weekend at the Presentation House Satellite Gallery, 560 Seymour Street (correction - initially I said Belkin Satellite). The Vancouver Sun’s photo archives were put up on display in a show filled to the brim with 8x10 glossy photographs, full page newspaper covers, and ephemera. On Saturday afternoon, Kate Bird and John Mackie spoke about the history of the collection, and overflow audience sat at the edge of their seats for the entire presentation!

One profoundly significant recent discovery was made just before Saturday’s talk. John Mackie came upon photographs of one of the most exceptional murals ever painted in British Columbia, the murals for the BC Pavilion at the Golden Gate Exposition in 1939. A set of extraordinary photographs depicts the three artists at work with the mural, along with images of the interior of the BC Pavilion. I believe the three images you see being painted are in fact, the miniature versions of the murals that were painted for the hometown crowd, and which reside in the Royal BC Archives in Victoria. The paintings are largely completed, so the photographs appear to be somewhat ‘staged’. I am still holding out for the discovery of some colour images featuring the murals, but for 1939, that might be just fantasy!

Sadly, no one really knows what happened to the original murals, which were larger than life in size and wrapped around the entire interior of the building in 12 panels. Considering they were the work of 3 accomplished war artists who all went on to critical acclaim, I think it’s safe to say the mural would have been worth millions. The Golden Gate Expo made a comeback in 1940, but BC was too preoccupied with the war effort to return, and I have not yet determined who took over the BC pavilion (hunch: it may have been Alaska). Thus, I believe the loss of this mural is one of the sad cultural casualties of war; had we not been at war, perhaps someone would have thought to bring the murals back home where they belonged.

I highly recommend a visit or two to this show; it really is overflowing with treasures and deserves repeated visits. The show runs until March 30th. Here’s John Mackie’s article in the Sun as a background to the show.

Cross-posted to VancouverIsAwesome.

The Vancouver Province Murals by John Girvan, 1925. From the book National Soul: Canadian Mural Painting, 1860s - 1930s by Marylin J. McKay:

In 1925 the Vancouver Province newspaper hired local artist John Girvan to paint seven panels of local history in the lobby of its main building (two panels lost, five panels in the Vancouver Show Mart building). The five remaining panels depict panoramas of the harbour in which activities related to early settlement and commercial activity take place.

I would really like to know if there was a description of the two panels that were lost; if anyone finds a list, let me know! The Show Mart building was 910 Mainland Street where SAP is now located. Correct me if I’m wrong, but was this not the birthplace of Crystal Reports?

You can now see these murals mounted on the wall just around the corner from the Charles Comfort mural in the Quadrangle. The way these paintings are framed on the wall reminds me of the panels of a comic book or graphic novel, and I can almost imagine the characters from a Cloudscape Comic entering the frame as some outrageous historical fiction unfolds…which is to say, I think these could have used a little more drama.

I noticed that J. Girvan taught Interior Decoration at the Vancouver School of Art at least during the years 1937-1940; he would have taught alongside Charles H. Scott, Paul Goranson, BC Binning, Jack Shadbolt, and Charles Marega, to name a few. To find out more about the life and work of J. Girvan, I think we must visit the library as the Internet is rather lacking.

Update! The VanArchives writes “We have the Girvan Studio fonds, but it’s not processed so not yet available for research”. More to come!

The Epic of Western Canada, a series of thirty oil paintings by John Innes that were shown on the sixth floor at the Hudson’s Bay in Vancouver on September of 1928. Apologies for such a lengthy post, but I couldn’t leave anything out. Below is a listing of all 30 paintings in the series:

  1. Silence
  2. Lords of the Wild [also titled Lords of the Plains]
  3. Buffalo Scouts
  4. When the Blackfeet Hunt
  5. The Pioneers’ Highway
  6. Treaty
  7. The Trading Post
  8. The Travellers
  9. In the Grip of the Frost
  10. The Red River Cart
  11. Prairie Schooners
  12. The Guardian of the West
  13. League-Long Furrows
  14. The Last Survivor
  15. The Trail of Ashes
  16. The Red-man’s Reverie
  17. Cattle-Land
  18. The Cattle Cruiser
  19. The Prospector
  20. The Eternal Quest
  21. In Rory Bory Land
  22. The Fur Hunters
  23. Pioneer Lumbering
  24. Fishers of the Western Gateway
  25. The Trail Rider
  26. The Pathfinder
  27. The Engineer
  28. The Roaring Devil of the Paleface
  29. Scarlet and Gold
  30. Flood-Tide of Opportunity

As described by the Vancouver Maritime Museum, this collection of paintings made their way into the HBC collection after touring across Canada:

…Innes reached Vancouver in 1905. On the way, he painted the beginning of a series of works in which he intended to capture the early days of western Canada - a time of the first nations, fur traders, trappers and cowboys. The result, which Innes called “The Epic of the West,” ended up being purchased by the Hudson’s Bay Company after a Canada-wide exhibition.

Actually, the book John Innes, Painter of the Canadian West mentions these paintings were also shown in London, England and later at the Fur Congress in Leipzig, Germany (possibly the International Fur Trade Exhibition and Congress in 1930). They were also displayed at the Lower Fort Garry National Historic Site for many years. Where are these paintings now? In 1994, the Bay donated the HBC Collection to the Manitoba Museum.

After contacting the curator of the HBC Collection, I was told the museum has a total of 26 oil paintings by John Innes, as well as 4 watercolours showing HBC posts in northern BC. Twenty five of these oil paintings are from the Epic of Western Canada series, but that leaves 5 paintings from the series outstanding. They are:

  1. The Travellers - described by the 1929 copyright catalog as “Two Indians on horseback riding through storm. Horse without rider at their right.” This painting was previously in the Manager’s office of a Zellers warehouse in Pointe Claire, QC. The facility was sold in 1987 and certain artworks were part of that sale. As this occurred before the 1994 donation, the painting has been separated from the series. Update! This painting is confirmed to remain with the North West Company, and it hangs in Gibraltar House in Winnipeg.
  2. In the Grip of the Frost - this painting dated 1917 appeared in the publication The Gold Stripe, Number 2 (1919), and at the time it was owned by J. B. Cowan, Esq. Incidentally, it was John Bruce Cowan who wrote the biography of John Innes published in 1945. The painting also appears in the book John Innes, Painter of the Canadian West, and so we can presume it was one of the paintings repurchased from collectors to create the Epic of Western Canada series. Current whereabouts unknown.
  3. The Cattle Cruiser - also appears in the book John Innes, Painter of the Canadian West, shown above; whereabouts unknown.
  4. The Pathfinder - described by the 1929 copyright catalog as “Man on horseback leading pack-horse, fording a stream. Forest and hills in background”; whereabouts unknown.
  5. Flood-Tide of Opportunity - armed with this description from the 1929 copyright catalog, I made an important discovery! “Skyscrapers in background. Field of wheat in middle distance. Pioneers and Indians in right foreground”

I am quite pleased to announce that I have personally solved the whereabouts of ONE of these five missing paintings! I had received a picture of the painting from HBC in response to my query, and by matching it to the description in the 1929 copyright catalog, I determined this last painting remains with HBC! As for the other four outstanding paintings, I shall keep searching. Perhaps one day these paintings will turn up and rejoin the rest of the collection in Manitoba.

Special thanks to HBC, the Manitoba Museum, Jaleen Grove, and everyone on the Internet for their assistance compiling this information. Next week, I will feature his followup series of paintings called From Trail to Rail; the Epic of Transportation. Stay tuned for more!

Cross-posted to VancouverIsAwesome.com with alternate text.

Jack Shadbolt (left) and Paul Goranson (right) working in 1940 on a mural for the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver. Photograph from the Vancouver Art Gallery library, photographer unknown. The theatre opened in 1941 (early May, I believe) in the midst of WWII, and in December of that same year Paul Goranson joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.
If you recall, Goranson worked with E.J. Hugues and Orville Fisher in the late 1930s after they graduated from the Vancouver School of Art. All three would become war artists: "In 1939 Hughes enlisted in the RCA as a gunner. Appointed a war artist in 1940, he was posted to Petawawa, Ontario, and in 1942, to England.” Fellow muralist Orville Fisher had joined the Royal Canadian Engineers in August of 1940. In fact, Jack Shadbolt also followed them into combat; “he enlisted in the army as a signalman on 28 October 1942.”
All four men mentioned above are honoured in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. I have not been able to determine exactly where this mural was located, and whether it was painted on a temporary backdrop or onto the theatre walls themselves. If anyone can find any additional information, I would love to know more! A few last words, from an obituary for Paul Goranson written by Laura Brandon: 

An accomplished artist with a growing post-war reputation and connections he might have been expected to stay in Canada to continue his pre-war career as a muralist, illustrator, and teacher in Vancouver. Instead, he to all intents and purposes disappeared. As late as 1978, Canadian War Museum art curator Hugh Halliday had no idea what had become of him. Even his former friend, partner, and fellow war artist E.J. Hughes did not know his whereabouts. Research begun in connection with the 1980 war art exhibition A Terrible Beauty produced an address and the mystery was solved. The artist had moved to New York after the war because, as he put it, he “had probably stayed too long in the service.” Given the current interest in war art and war artists in Canada, it is hard to believe that being a war artist for too long could have been detrimental to one’s career but quite clearly, in Goranson’s case, he believed it to be so. In New York he became a display designer and then a scenic artist, joining the Metropolitan Opera in 1965. Here he worked under artists and designers such as Franco Zefferelli, Sir Cecil Beaton, and Marc Chagall. But he remained a Canadian citizen and, upon retirement in 1986 at the age of 75, returned to Vancouver.…Paul Goranson painted to the end and on 3 August 2002 he laid down his brush for the last time.

Jack Shadbolt (left) and Paul Goranson (right) working in 1940 on a mural for the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver. Photograph from the Vancouver Art Gallery library, photographer unknown. The theatre opened in 1941 (early May, I believe) in the midst of WWII, and in December of that same year Paul Goranson joined the Royal Canadian Air Force.

If you recall, Goranson worked with E.J. Hugues and Orville Fisher in the late 1930s after they graduated from the Vancouver School of Art. All three would become war artists: "In 1939 Hughes enlisted in the RCA as a gunner. Appointed a war artist in 1940, he was posted to Petawawa, Ontario, and in 1942, to England.” Fellow muralist Orville Fisher had joined the Royal Canadian Engineers in August of 1940. In fact, Jack Shadbolt also followed them into combat; “he enlisted in the army as a signalman on 28 October 1942.”

All four men mentioned above are honoured in the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. I have not been able to determine exactly where this mural was located, and whether it was painted on a temporary backdrop or onto the theatre walls themselves. If anyone can find any additional information, I would love to know more! A few last words, from an obituary for Paul Goranson written by Laura Brandon

An accomplished artist with a growing post-war reputation and connections he might have been expected to stay in Canada to continue his pre-war career as a muralist, illustrator, and teacher in Vancouver. Instead, he to all intents and purposes disappeared. As late as 1978, Canadian War Museum art curator Hugh Halliday had no idea what had become of him. Even his former friend, partner, and fellow war artist E.J. Hughes did not know his whereabouts. Research begun in connection with the 1980 war art exhibition A Terrible Beauty produced an address and the mystery was solved. The artist had moved to New York after the war because, as he put it, he “had probably stayed too long in the service.”

Given the current interest in war art and war artists in Canada, it is hard to believe that being a war artist for too long could have been detrimental to one’s career but quite clearly, in Goranson’s case, he believed it to be so. In New York he became a display designer and then a scenic artist, joining the Metropolitan Opera in 1965. Here he worked under artists and designers such as Franco Zefferelli, Sir Cecil Beaton, and Marc Chagall. But he remained a Canadian citizen and, upon retirement in 1986 at the age of 75, returned to Vancouver.

…Paul Goranson painted to the end and on 3 August 2002 he laid down his brush for the last time.

Admiral Hotel Mural, from Background / Vancouver - An Artist’s View of the City, October 30, 1972, originally seen in an exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1974, recently posted to michaeldecourcy.com. From his bio:

Michael de Courcy, born 1944, in Montreal, Quebec, studied at École des Beaux Arts, Montreal and the Vancouver School of Art. Over the past 45 years he has maintained a studio in Vancouver, British Columbia and exhibited internationally. he has lectured and given workshops at many cultural institutions including the school of the Art Institute of Chicago, York University, the University of British Columbia and Emily Carr College of Art and Design.

The Admiral Hotel is located at 4125 Hastings Street in Burnaby. I’ve been meaning to investigate this in person on the off chance that some part of this mosaic has survived. If anyone has any more photos, I’d love to see them!

Admiral Hotel Mural, from Background / Vancouver - An Artist’s View of the City, October 30, 1972, originally seen in an exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1974, recently posted to michaeldecourcy.com. From his bio:

Michael de Courcy, born 1944, in Montreal, Quebec, studied at École des Beaux Arts, Montreal and the Vancouver School of Art. Over the past 45 years he has maintained a studio in Vancouver, British Columbia and exhibited internationally. he has lectured and given workshops at many cultural institutions including the school of the Art Institute of Chicago, York University, the University of British Columbia and Emily Carr College of Art and Design.

The Admiral Hotel is located at 4125 Hastings Street in Burnaby. I’ve been meaning to investigate this in person on the off chance that some part of this mosaic has survived. If anyone has any more photos, I’d love to see them!

This post takes us all the way back to the late 1800s, when photography was just emerging and Canadian publishing was in its infancy. An enterprising man by the name of John McConniff appears to have been wearing two hats; one as a publisher, and another as a travel agent. As a travel agent, he worked out of the Union Ticket Agency in the Rotunda of the Windsor Hotel in Montreal. This hotel first opened in 1878 and is often considered to be the first grand hotel in Canada. While working in this environment, he produced at least 9 illustrated souvenir books of the most prominent cities in Canada. He offered these books for sale by mail or through local booksellers in each city. I believe these titles were published circa 1890-1893.

John McConniff must have been something of a renaissance man because these books were not your typical promotional tourist literature; he clearly wanted to produce books of the highest possible quality. He licensed images from early photographers such as William Notman (who was also one of the founding partners of the Windsor Hotel Company), he sought out superb illustrators and book binders, and he selected a local writer from each city to write about their region’s history, institutions, and places of interest.

What titles did he choose for his books? Drumroll, please!

  • Illustrated Quebec, the Gibraltar and Tourists’ Mecca of America
  • Illustrated Montreal, the Metropolis of Canada
  • Illustrated Halifax, the Garrison City by the Sea
  • Illustrated Toronto, the Queen City of the West
  • Illustrated Ottawa, the Capital of Canada
  • Illustrated St. John, the Loyalists’ City
  • Illustrated Winnipeg, The Prosperous Prairie City
  • Illustrated Vancouver, Golden Gate of the Pacific
  • Illustrated Victoria, City of the Setting Sun

Of these nine titles, four are now available on archive.org; Illustrated Quebec and Illustrated Montreal are available in full colour, and Illustrated Halifax and Illustrated Toronto can be seen in black and white (from microfilm). Alas, the remaining five titles are missing in action, and Illustrated Vancouver is alarmingly absent!! This could be the very first edition of such a title, and given this historical significance, all efforts must be made to locate a copy! It does not appear that the VPL, the Vancouver Archives, the BC Archives, or UBC Special Collections have a copy, so perhaps we must rely on private collectors to locate Ottawa, St. John, Winnipeg, Vancouver, and Victoria. If you come across one of these missing titles, please consider scanning it and uploading it to the Internet Archive, or donating it to a local museum that could do the same.

There are a couple similar titles that I would like to point out; an earlier edition of a book titled Illustrated Toronto; Past and Present was published by Peter A. Gross in 1877. It is also available on the Internet Archive, and it features over 60 fantastic lithographs of the city. The colours have faded somewhat, but this is still a glorious publication, for those who have a fondness of early Toronto. Closer to home, we are lucky that Greater Vancouver Illustrated published circa 1906-1909 by Dominion Illustrating Co. survives in a number of local collections, MoV, VanArchives, and VPL to name a few. And if you’re interested, David Mason in Toronto may still have a copy for sale. I believe this title is primarily photographic, but it’s still an artfully produced publication.

I’m sorry I can’t show you the one title that would mean the most here, but I’m counting on the Internet to crowd-source us a copy of all five missing publications soon! These may be old, but they are not the oldest publications ever to mention Vancouver in print. That honour will be saved for another upcoming post!

Update! Illustrated Victoria spotted! Well, not exactly. I wonder if this is a reprint of some sort? These are some very early illustrations of Victoria from Souvenir British Columbia by the Canadian Department of Agriculture, 1885, and Souvenir of British Columbia: Views No. 1, printed by T.N. Hibben & Co., 1880 (respectively).

Industry, a two-part mural painted for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco. Painted by Paul Goranson, E.J. Hughes, and Orville Fisher, the three “were known as The Three Musketeers of Art’ in reference to the fact that they were artists who had enlisted.” (source) The trio also called themselves the West Coast Brotherhood, echoing the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. (source)

A total of 15 make that 12 murals in this series were painted, part of a project called “Art in Action”, which featured the murals on the walls of the exhibition hall. WWII caused the Expo to close early, but smaller versions of the murals survive in the BC Archives in Victoria. (source) These two murals are also seen in the book Free Spirit: Stories of You, Me and BC by Gerald Truscott.

E.J. Hughes, described by Jack Shadbolt as “the most engaging intuitive painter of the BC landscape since Emily Carr”, he is truly an icon of modern day Canadian art. (source)

"Orville Fisher’s paintings of the Second World War constitute one of the most complete records of Canada’s day-to-day role in that conflict. Perhaps his chief claim to fame is that he was the only Allied war artist to land in Normandy on D-Day, 6 June 1944. This achievement is all the more extraordinary given the fact that he almost never made it overseas in the first place." More

Orville Fisher’s mural featuring the figure of Mercury, god of messages and glad tidings, appears inside the post office building at 349 West Georgia Street, by the Homer Street entrance. He also assisted with the 1951 mural “B.C. Pageant" with Charles Comfort and 2 students.

"After the war, Goranson remained for two years with the RCAF in Ottawa, working up his pencil, charcoal and watercolour sketches into canvases. Then, finding no work in Toronto, he went to New York" (source) where “he became a display designer and then a scenic artist, joining the Metropolitan Opera in 1965. Here he worked under artists and designers such as Franco Zefferelli, Sir Cecil Beaton, and Marc Chagall. But he remained a Canadian citizen and, upon retirement in 1986 at the age of 75, returned to Vancouver.” (source)

Goranson is, without a doubt, one of my all time favourites.

Low resolution images PDP02285 and PDP02286 shown here are courtesy of the Royal BC Museum, BC Archives. Cross-posted to Vancouver Is Awesome.