Curated by Sonya Marie de Lazzer
Anne Smith Hook
b. Ireland 1900, d. 1978 Toronto, Ontario
BOTTLE GENTIAN, c. 1960
Linocut; Japanese paper and ink
Anne Smith Hook was originally born in Ireland in 1900 and immigrated to Canada by 1922. Largely self-taught, she also studied under Caven Atkins in the 1940s and at the Ontario College of Art, under Carl Schaefer. In 1944, she became a full member of the Federation of Canadian Artists and a member of the Canadian Painter-Etchers in 1952. Hook rarely numbered her original prints in specific editions. During the 1950s, her reputation was based largely upon her botanical and floral depictions which stressed strong design elements. By 1960, however, Hook’s art had turned increasingly towards a personal form of lyrical abstraction. The key elements of her botanical art are based upon rebirth and regeneration.
Hook’s work and detail conveys dynamic movement that demands attention as the eye weaves through the background lines, while stems rise up in the foreground. The design’s colours are parted up into colour blocks, each of which are subsequently printed with its particular hue on fine handmade paper. This warm-scale print, with delicate shades of ochre, sienna, yellows, and warm greens, creates an ensemble over which the single blue block representing the flower comes to stand out with purposeful intensity. This is a strong testament to Hook’s technical ability and mastery of the medium and process.
Ella M. Waukey
b. Cape Crocker, Ontario 1928, d. 2010 Wiarton, Ontario
FALLEN LOGS AND TRILLIUMS, n.d.
Silkscreen print, wove paper
Ella M. Waukey was born in Cape Crocker, Ontario on the Bruce Peninsula and she possessed a varied and wide-ranging skillset, including costume design, writing, poetry and silk-screening. Waukey’s writing included a book titled Bear Facts which contained numerous short stories and teachings based on strong spiritual beliefs and experiences from nature.
Waukey’s work, Fallen Logs, is extremely rich in colour, with a variety of greens, and intricately layered leafy patterns that encourage a closer look.
Waukey’s work is comprised of layered, vibrant pops of pink, and white, with white representing the trillium flower. This work, very much like Hook’s Bottle Gentian, is more of a testament to an experimental process, while playing with and exploring printmaking at a print studio in Cape Crocker, early on in her career. Waukey’s crisp, print-like depiction of leaf and tree form, with the added layering of greens against an increasingly darker background offers us a dynamic sense of depth in silkscreen medium.
b. Staffordshire, England 1892, d. 1959 Ottawa, Ontario
SCRUB MAPLE, c. 1928
Watercolour over pencil, wove paper
Paul Alfred Ernest Meister immigrated to Canada in 1910 from England and his works have exhibited extensively throughout Europe and North America, including the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, the First Pan American Exhibition in Los Angeles, and the Exposition D’Art Canadien, Musee du Jeu De Paume in Paris, France. Alfred also worked extensively as an illustrator, graphic designer and printmaker, working on tourist and other publications for the Department of Canadian National Resources, however, his work Scrub Maple, represents his strength as a landscape painter, particularly in watercolour.
As the title of the work suggests, Alfred depicts a low-lying scene where a maple tree has grown entangled with grasses and shrub-like greenery. This work conveys a wonderful interplay of colour, light and transparency. The use and change of colour sets the form, outline and depth of the work, proving that sometimes the most precise and perceptive depictions of nature, especially those of plant-life and tree-life, can be captured through abstracted play of colour and form.
b. Surrey, England 1810, d. 1894 Amherst Island, Ontario
STUDY OF A TREE, c. 1875
Watercolour paint over ink, wove paper
Daniel Fowler was born into an upper middle-class family in Camberwell, England, where he worked as an artist, farmer, journalist, and author. He developed a strong familiarity with the work of English landscape painters such as Turner, David Cox, Peter De Wint, and John Sell Cotman, and eminent lithographer Charles Joseph Hullmandel. Fowler was first drawn to painting scenes directly in nature, rather than in the studio, and after his father’s death in 1830, he began to explore his own style of English watercolour painting that drew upon his calligraphic skillsets, eventually showing a mastery of observation and a sureness and economy of means while retaining great freedom and a directness of stroke that is bold and fresh.
Fowler captures a great vibrancy of light across what is an otherwise muted set of green and brown-ochre tones in Study of a Tree. He also reflects an intense but gentle realism that comes from his fourteen-year long experience as a farmer, deeply connected to the landscape, paired with his strong and skilled foundations from his early trainings. Fowler’s work is expressive and calligraphic while also possessing great attention to detail and sensibility through the application of layers of linework; highlighting branches, leaves, rocks and even blades of grass.
b. Cannington, Ontario 1861, d. 1930 Toronto, Ontario
UNTITLED (Yellow Water Lilies), n.d.
Watercolour and gouache paint over pencil
Robert Holmes was influenced early on by the natural beauty of the countryside in the Cannington area, located in the Durham Region, as well as by his mother’s love of flowers. Holmes studied at the Ontario School of Art under William Cruikshank, and then at the Royal College of Art in London, England and briefly at the University of New York before returning to Toronto. In 1886, Holmes joined a “Sketch Club”, which provided him an opportunity to develop outdoor sketching techniques and opportunities to explore the countryside. As Holmes evolved into a teacher and mentor, he was known to encourage students to find inspiration in native flowers and shrubs as motifs for decorative design
Holmes conveys an innate ability to depict flowers in such a way that others might paint a portrait; possessing a rare combination of botanical accuracy, artistic design and technical skill. His work Untitled (Yellow Water Lilies) is situated between a near-perfect representation and wonderfully hyper-saturated print; depicting rich and layered colours that nature might even find difficult to recreate. Many artists have dabbled in capturing wildflowers in nature, with the water lily being one of the most recognizable motifs. Holmes’ iteration provides something unique in the way he addresses the scene with contrasting notions of hyper accuracy and artistic freedom.
Archibald George Barnes
b. London, England 1887, d. 1972 Toronto, Ontario
UNTITLED (Roses and Peonies), n.d.
Oil on canvas
Born in London England, Archibald Barnes attended St John’s Wood Art School and the Royal Academy School in London. He became a painter of portraits and figures in a very true and realistic style and was represented in public galleries of England at Manchester, Huddersfield, Hule, Oldham, and collections in Canada; Toronto, Vancouver, as well as the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. Barnes’ primary mediums are oils and watercolors with his most well-known subjects being portraits and figures in landscapes, however, he is known for combining various genres together; such as portrait, landscape and still life.
Untitled (Roses and Peonies) depicts a traditional and colourful still life, with romantic tones made up of soft floral hues against a neutral background. Looking closely, one can notice subtle flecks of the brush indicating the high gloss texture of the vessel. The work also provides a subtle nod to the spirit of vanitas still life genre; the fallen petal, with this flower journeying past its prime, slowly coming to wilt. At first glance, the beauty of the work attracts the eye – flowers arranged and shown in an ideal state of bloom – but with the vanities of earthy life, fleeting in nature, the viewer is asked to look beyond these superficial interests and recognize life and its cycles.
b. Sandridge, Victoria 1874, d. 1947 Bexhill, South East England
SNOWDROPS AND CROCUSES, n.d.
Australian born Hal Thorpe achieved considerable success in England with his decorative prints of flowers, fruit and landscapes. Thorpe attended Heatherley’s School of Art in London and developed a distinctive style of colored woodcut prints. He would go on to exhibit at the Royal Academy. He was also a member of the Sydney Society of Artists and showed successfully alongside the likes of many prominent artists including Tom Roberts, a key member of the Heidelberg School art movement (also known as Australian impressionism).
Snowdrops and Crocuses represents a long series of works that Thorpe developed as a reaction to what he deemed a growing dull and laborious realism in home décor and decoration in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Thorpe’s works on dark backgrounds grew to become something of an international phenomenon during the 1920s and 1930s, designed with the specific intention of providing bright and colourful decoration in homes and offices.
Stella Evelyn Grier
b. Toronto, Ontario 1898, d. 1994 Ottawa, Ontario
FLOWER STUDY, c. 1930
Oil on board
Stella Evelyn Grier was the daughter of the late Wyly Grier, a prominent Canadian portrait painter. She studied with her father but went on to attend the Art Students’ League (New York), Goldsmith’s College, St. Martin’s School, and the New Cross School, all in London, England. Grier traveled to the United States of America and England, working as a freelance commercial artist, drawing children’s schoolbooks, children’s fashions and a draughtsman-lecturer in the Department of Archaeology at the Royal Ontario Museum. Grier focused on painting portraits in her own studio in London during the First World War but then returned to Toronto where she worked as a commercial artist at the Eaton’s Store. Grier’s delicate pen and wash drawings, as reflected in Flower Study, reflect her success as an illustrator for various Arts and Crafts-themed publications, such as Emma Scott Raff’s Of Queen’s Gardens.
Verna Viola Depew
b. Stoney Creek, Ontario 1894, d. 1992 Hamilton, Ontario
NICOTIANA, c. 1956
Linocut, relief print, ink, wove paper
Verna Viola Depew was born near Stoney Creek in 1894 and received her artistic training at the Ontario College of Art as well as the Cleveland School of Art. She studied painting under JR Seavey and colour block printing from Leonard Hutchinson in Hamilton. She was a member of the Society of Canadian Painter-Etchers and Engravers, the Canadian Society of Graphic Art and the Women’s Art Association. She was both active and recognized in art circles in Hamilton, serving various roles in the Hamilton art education system and the Art Gallery Association of Hamilton; receiving the gold medal for Graphic Art in 1938.
Depew’s colour linoleum cut for Nicotiana was pulled by hand on fine rice paper, using seven blocks for this print, specifically. In order to produce this work, Depew created several sketches in nature so that a solid outline composition could be established. Several experiments followed in order to fit a colour scheme into the skeleton drawing before a decision was made on the final harmony of hues. Inspired by the charm of the fragrant, old-fashioned Nicotiana flowers, the work is comprised of a mix of deep hues and shades with flatter, light colours, creating a fairy tale eeriness of deep light and shade.
Suzanne Bryant Raney
b. London, England 1918, d. 1967
POOR MAN’S PENNIES, c. 1965
Relief print, woodcut, Japanese paper
Suzanne Bryant Raney was born in London, England and after immigrating to Canada, she was educated in Toronto at Bishop Strachan School and Ontario College of Art. This work, and others in this exhibition (Bottle Gentian and Nicotiana) were acquired by Samuel Weir through Honorary Membership in the Society of Canadian Painter-Etchers and Engravers, which is a tradition that dates back to 1929 when the first Presentation Print or Members Print was made for distribution to those interested in print-making in Canada. This was a way to build one’s art collection, and many members certainly did so, through this membership and subscription.
Raney’s work was the official print of 1965, and in keeping with the breadth of Raney’s various forms of medium and subject matter, the weed became a central focus for her. Weeds are often seen by the artist in their symbolic sense as the final end and the beginning, while in the intermediate stage they keep nature balanced and in harmony, by supplying birds with seed and gardeners with work. The composition of this work reflects nature’s arrangement, as seen through the artist’s eyes, while giving precedence to intricacy of lines and varied textures.
Agnes Fitzgibbon and Catharine Parr Trail
CANADIAN WILD FLOWERS, 1869
Montreal: John Lovell
The rare book Canadian Wild Flowers by Agnes Fitzgibbon and Catharine Parr Traill (née Strickland) is a study of local plants from 1861. When the idea was originally conceived, Traill found no one willing to take on the cost of publishing the project for such a small market. Traill enlisted her niece, Agnes FitzGibbon, daughter of the author Susanna Moodie, to provide illustrations for her project. The rare book is presented open to one of Fitzgibbon’s lithographs, titled White Trillium, and represents one of many fully-coloured plates. This book, published in 1869, would become one of the first serious botanical studies published in Canada. Fitzgibbon and Traill were responsible for enlisting subscribers, a common practice in nineteenth-century Canadian publishing, however, their collaboration proved so popular and successful that several editions in several regions across Canada were produced.
Emanuel Sweerts and Everett F. Bleiler
Early Floral Engravings All 110 Plates from the 1612 "Florilegium", 1976
Dover Publications: New York
Nurseryman Emmanuel Sweerts’ Early Floral Engravings: All 110 Plates from the 1612 “Florilegium” provides a guide to the flowering plants grown in European gardens in 1600 and offers a wealth of interesting engravings, of value for both technical information and visual exploration. Florilegium comes from the New Latin word “gathering flowers” and the publication of florilegia in the sixteenth century began in response to a number of factors.
During the European aesthetic revolution of the 1600s, plants in general and their fruits and flowers came to be appreciated for their beauty and visual appeal. The development of trade routes throughout the world made it possible for royal and wealthy patrons to import exotic species of plants, flowers, and fruits. The newly imported beautiful and exotic plants led to development of a new concept in gardening; the “flower garden”. Lastly, this book is an example of how organic forms were transformed into reproducible art and accurate reference pictures long before the camera became involved.