The Club women artists of Regina

This is my second post providing biographies of Regina Women Artists. See my previous post Some Women Artists in Regina for more.

Author’s note: There is no parallel post for Saskatoon on this particular topic because women painters in Saskatoon never co-ordinated clubs devoted to exhibiting Art (with a capital A). The female run clubs in Saskatoon, like the Saskatoon Arts & Crafts Society or the Art Appreciation Society did co-ordinate exhibitions but very few of the members were artists, themselves.  I will highlight major figures in these clubs under a discussion of the individual club.

Although, this may seem like I am denigrating the artistic work of certain women by using this title, I need to point out that these artists strongly identified with their clubs.  Many of them were pioneers of Saskatchewan and married to prominent men whose biographies appear in early Saskatchewan history books.  Whether they were married or not, they were generally members of the social elite of Regina.  Better educated than many women of their time, they were also feminists who had campaigned for universal suffrage and joined clubs to support women’s causes.

Unlike most Saskatchewan women, the club women artists usually had servants to do the housework and look after the children, which gave them time to devote to their unpaid vocations.  Career women without children also found the clubs a welcoming social venue, as did women who had already raised their children and wished to continue to contribute to society. These privileged women were not bohemians, nor were they ethnically diverse – they loved their dainty teas, fancy clothes, houses and travel. However, apart from being artists themselves, they did do a lot of good work in promoting the cause of Saskatchewan art.  Someone had to do something.

Despite my own less than privileged background, I kind of identify with them.  As a retired grandmother with a lot of time now to spend pursuing my unpaid vocation, I feel the same way.

I have chosen to write biographies or include biographical material on some of the clubwomen whom I think deserve to shed their present cloak of obscurity. They certainly were not obscure in their heyday. If they are known at all now, they are known, as was the custom in the first half of the twentieth century, by their husband’s name.  Only single women were addressed with their own name. Who were Mrs. Fred Barber, Mrs. G.H. Barr, Mrs. L.J. D. Fasken?  This is what I have found out about them by looking at the activities of the Women’s Art Association and the Regina LCW arts committees and using some genealogical research skills. Photos of several of the following people appear in a Leader pictorial of the WAA from Jan. 8, 1931

Mrs. Fred Barber (b.1873, Ontario- died 1966 Regina) was Barbara Muir before she married the man who owned property and a men’s wear store in Regina.  She appears in the 1990 Biographical Dictionary of Saskatchewan Women Artists which includes a full resume of the many clubs she belonged to and her achievements.  If you don’t have access to that, there are a number of newspaper articles which profile her because she was certainly the most activist of the clubwomen in her relations with Saskatchewan art. (Dec. 18, 1940Jan. 31, 1962 & June 13, 1963) Based on the information in  these articles, I will mention that she arrived in Regina about 1912 and was a founding member (1920) and the second president of the Regina LCW Fine and Applied Art Committee, serving from 1922-1928. She then founded the Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan and was its president from 1929-1931 and 1943-45, which means that she presided over and showed in many of the Saskatchewan art exhibitions between 1920-1945. (See my exhibitions lists and post for those organizations) She became a founding member of the Regina FCA before she left to live in British Columbia in 1945. She returned to Saskatchewan in the 1950s where she lived in the family home at Regina Beach until her death.  She also founded the Regina Beach Women’s Art Association and Regina Beach Art Centre, where she taught art classes.  By her own reckoning she was a painter for 70 years. She had an extensive exhibition record within and outside the province and became a Fellow of the Royal Arts Society of England in 1940. Her death was noted and I’ve even found an announcement of her death in the Montreal Gazette.  But – Just try to find a painting or ceramic piece or anything else she made now.  According to the CHIN network database, one of her paintings, Approach to the Valley, 1931, is owned by the Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery. This was probably bought by the Moose Jaw Women’s Art Association when Barber held a solo show in that city for fundraising purposes that year. Barber held her own solo show in Regina in 1930 (Nov. 24, Nov. 27, Nov. 28, Dec. 1) to raise funds for charity.

Mrs. G.H. Barr (b.1883 in Ontario-d.1963 in Regina, Sask. )was the former Ethel Dawson who came to Regina as a baby in 1883. While working as a stenographer in Norman MacKenzie’s law office, she met her future husband, George H. Barr. The young couple lived in Toronto for a short period while George Barr finished his legal training.  Barr became a lawyer and a prominent man of affairs in Regina after they returned in 1907. Ethel Barr was a founding member of many clubs and active in Regina’s musical and artistic circles.  She was a founding and very active  member of the LCW Fine and Applied Arts Committee (1920) and served two terms as president. It is said that she was a founding member of the Regina Sketch Club although she didn’t exhibit any of her landscape paintings in Saskatchewan artists shows until 1927. She attended Emma Lake Art School in its early years, expanding her landscape subject horizons beyond the Qu’Appelle lakes region where she and her husband owned a summer home. (The Barrs were early collectors of the paintings of James Henderson)   Barr also attended art classes with Nicola Bjelejac and Gordon Snelgrove in Regina in 1948. She described herself as a hobby painter and generally only painted landscape.

Barr exhibited in both the LCW Saskatchewan artist shows and some of the Women’s Art Association shows, although she doesn’t seem to have been an active member of the newer organization. Unlike her compatriot Barbara Barber, Barr was more interested in Regina’s cultural promotion, Barber in its artists, and their personalities were clearly different.

Ethel Barr claimed to be the first landscape painter to use Saskatchewan clay pigments as the basis for her poppy seed oil paint, thereby making her paintings a total Saskatchewan production. See my post on the early days of Emma Lake (Murray Point) Art Camp

Ethel Barr and her husband were both tireless workers in the cause of Regina art and education.  Mrs. Barr was a founding member of the Regina FCA and the first and only president of the Regina Art Centre Association (1944-1953), an alliance of Regina art clubs who supported the building of an art centre and a gallery in Regina. She wrote a brief to the Saskatchewan Reconstruction Council on the behalf of the Regina Art Centre ( Jan 18, 1944) and negotiated the Mackenzie Gallery’s acquisition of the LCW Art Committee’s art collection. See my post on art patrons of the province.

To my mind, as well, she was the first amateur Saskatchewan art historian, chronicling the people and events associated with Regina’s art community.  As archivist for the Regina LCW’s Arts and Letters committee, she updated the Local Council of Women’s history in 1947 and headed that committee’s efforts to collect historical documents for archival purposes.  She was probably the most knowledgeable person about Regina’s cultural history at that stage and became the go-to person for information and lectures on the subject.

There are a couple of articles profiling her activist career, one being her obituary. (Oct. 9, 1954   & Sep. 5, 1963 . The Leader-Post also provided an editorial on Sep. 7, 1963 recognizing Ethel Barr’s contribution to the community but, unfortunately, this copy is mostly unreadable.  The Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina owns a painting by Ethel Barr and one by her husband George H. Barr.

Mrs. Edward Wallace Guy (E.W.G.) Bell (b. 1884 Hastings, Ontario, d. 1970 Regina) The former Isobel Jean Donald was the wife of a bank manager.  She came to Regina from Portage la Prairie about 1924.  From that time on she exhibited regularly in the LCW’s  and later WAA’s annual shows in Regina.  Jean was a very active member of the LCW arts and letters committee which she chaired from 1940 to 1943. She was known for her print making, in addition to her paintings and sketches, indicating that she was schooled in the arts prior to arriving in Regina.  She was also an early executive member of the Women’s Art Association and exhibited with the Regina Arts & Crafts Society and the Regina FCA as a founding member.

In Dunlop Gallery Exhibition, Aug. 5 – Aug. 30. 1967 “Amateurs at the Easel” Dunlop Permanent collection 25.3 x 35.3 cm, PC83.1.4 BELLJean, Elevators, Grand Coulee , 1951, watercolour on paper, 35.9 x 47.7 cm, PC83.1.5 BELLJean, Group of Trees-Odessa Beach , n.d., oil on cardboard, 27.0 x 32.0 cm,

Mrs. A.A. Brown (b. 1886 – died 1962 in Regina) I don’t know her maiden name but her first name was Everal, usually noted as A. Everal Brown. She exhibited with the Regina Arts and Crafts Society and acted as convener for their Fine arts committee and also ceramics committee. She taught ceramic painting and also exhibited her oil paintings of flowers and landscapes and ceramics with them, in addition to showing her artworks often with the Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan and the Regina FCA. She was a founding member of both of these organizations.  In 1947 she submitted a painting for consideration in the National Council of Women’s exhibition at Riverside, New York. Her Mixed Flowers was not chosen for that exhibition but it was exhibited in Toronto at the Wakunda Art Centre, along with 167 other paintings chosen out of a submitted number of 536 paintings from across Canada.

Mrs. F.N. Darke (b. 1871 in PEI- d.1964 in Regina) was Annie Elizabeth McKinnon who met and married her husband Frank N. Darke in Prince Edward Island before coming to Regina as pioneers of the community in 1892 .  She was a founding member of the Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan, Regina FCA and Regina Arts & Crafts Society.  She exhibited both paintings and ceramic work.  Her husband, Frank N. Darke, became very wealthy through property deals before World War I and was a generous benefactor of education and arts in Regina, donating large sums for the building of the women’s residence at Regina College in 1916 (where many art exhibitions were held) and Regina College’s Conservatory of Music and Art (Darke Hall) built in 1928. Annie Darke attended some early Emma Lake art camp classes.

Mrs. L.J.D. Fasken (b. 28 Jul 1877 in Brant, Ont. – d. 1960, Elora, Wellington, Ont.) Laura Evangeline Rothwell  was a daughter of Regina pioneers. Her husband Lorne J.D. Fasken was a prominent dental surgeon in Regina and his story and others can be seen in a 1924 publication Saskatchewan and its people by John Hawkes online. Her mother Margaret Rothwell was an artist who exhibited in Regina fairs in the early 1900s and Laura was probably taught by her.  She was a very prolific painter who exhibited in most of the shows from the 1920s to 1940s. She also hosted solo shows ( Feb. 2, 1931Feb. 3, 1931, Feb. 5, 1931 & Feb 6, 1931Dec. 14, 1933, Dec. 7, 1937 & Dec. 8, 1937, for herself in her home where up to 75 paintings would be shown.  She was a founding member of the Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan and often served on the executive committees of that organization, 1932-34 as President.

1931 Laura Fasken picture story

Mrs. William W. Martin (b.1893-died 1977 in Regina)  Effie Martin (maiden name unknown) was a painter and an active exhibitor with the LCW and WAA in Regina and was a member of the Regina Sketch Club and an honoured founder of the Regina FCA. She was a founding member of the Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan and also seems to have been a member of the Regina Arts & Crafts Society, exhibiting paintings and other crafts with them. (See posts on these organizations) Martin apparently had James Henderson as a special mentor and took classes from A.Y. Jackson at the Banff School of Fine Arts. In 1945 one of her paintings from the Banff summer school of art was chosen to be in a circulating show which came to Regina in 1946. This painting, a view of Lake Louise, was selected by the Banff School of the Arts for its permanent collection, along with a mountain scene with teepee by Ruth Pawson. Jan. 7 1946 RLP. Simpson’s Store in Regina bought some of her paintings for an exhibition and sale in 1945  Effie became the president of the Women’s Art Association in 1948 and they sponsored a solo exhibition of her paintings in 1949. There are records of her exhibiting paintings in Regina into the 1970s (Dunlop Art Gallery)

Mrs. Hugh MacLean (b. Rockwood, Manitoba 1880- d.1974 in Vancouver, B.C.) was the former Susan Sutton Weir.  SNAC has a very short biography on their website which says that she arrived in Saskatchewan in 1902. She was a teacher and probably came as a married woman with her husband.  SNAC also tells us that she trained in china painting in Boston and Chicago (probably while her husband was educating himself as a physician prior to WW1) and that she took classes at Banff School of Fine Arts with A.C. Leighton and with Gus Kenderdine at Emma Lake Art School in 1936.

Susan MacLean was a founding member of the LCW Arts Committee,  Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan and the Regina Sketch Club. She and her husband were art collectors and Dr. MacLean was active in supporting higher education and state-supported medical care in the province.  Dr.  and Mrs. MacLean moved to Los Angeles, California in 1937 but retained a close relationship with Saskatchewan. Susan appears to have gone back to Regina for several visits, one in 1942 when she was honoured at a gathering sponsored by the Regina Sketch Club, along with Harriette Keating, who was also leaving the province.  Susan MacLean was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in London in 1942, according to a yearly report of the WAA.

Mrs. MacLean was very active in Regina clubs of all kinds, beginning with the Women’s Art Exchange in 1914, She was a great promoter of china painting and many of her oil painting included related subjects like flowers and landscape. She exhibited quite regularly with the LCW art committee’s Saskatchewan artists exhibitions and the Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan art exhibitions and probably had her work sent to Toronto for Women’s Art Association of Canada’s annual all Canadian exhibitions.  She also gave lectures on the subject of art to many clubs.

She may have continued to work as an artist in Los Angeles where she and her husband lived into retirement but MacLean returned to Canada to live after her husband died, suggesting she likely had children living in Vancouver.

There is a painting by her in the MacKenzie Art Gallery collection. She is listed in DeMann, 2003 Biographical Index of artists in Canada,

 Mrs. Hugh Macgillivray (1872-1972) I don’t know Mary’s maiden name or anything about her early life.  She married a man who eventually became mayor of Regina.  She was a china painter and flower painter in oils. She exhibited regularly with both the LCW and WAA and assisted on a number of exhibitions.  She doesn’t seem to have held office with these clubs, though.

Mrs. E.C. Rossie  (born 12 Jun 1880, Ontario and died 27 Mar 1956, Regina Beach) Eva Chatwin, daughter of Regina pioneers, married to prominent Regina photographer E.C. Rossie. Eva was involved in a number of clubs and was a consistent member of the LCW Arts & letters Committee, although she seems to have only been mentioned once as an exhibitor. She was also an early member of the WAA of Saskatchewan. As a young Miss Chatwin, she exhibited her handiwork in the Regina Fairs at the turn of the century and was known more usually as a china painter. However, she also painted canvases and exhibited with Barbara Barber, for example. She was a founding member of the Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan and exhibited most frequently with them.  She also was an early member of the Regina Sketch Club.  Eva Rossie worked to popularize china painting by hosting annual exhibitions of the work of Edith Vandermade and others at her Regina home. (see bio of Edith Vandermade for links) The Rossies had a summer home at Regina Beach and that was where her friend Edith was based in the summer time.

Mrs. W. A. Allen – Mary Allen was long associated with the executive of the Moose Jaw Women’s Art Association. Annual meetings of the Saskatchewan WAA usually included a contingent from Moose Jaw and reports on their activities intermittently appeared in the Leader Post. I have a list of these in my post on the WAA. I have no idea if Mrs. Allen was an artist herself but she certainly worked hard for this club.

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Other women who were also involved with Regina art clubs were: Sybil Jacobson (grouped with the Saskatoon artists), Mildred V. Thornton, Harriette Keating, Margaret Frame, Dorothea Sheldon-Williams, Laura Lamont and Agnes V. Warren (grouped with the Regina artists).  Their bios appear under Some Women Artists posts as their public identities are not as closely tied to the clubs as these women enumerated here.

If you look at my WAA and LCW ACL exhibition lists, which show individuals exhibiting by year, you will often see the names of these club women. You can click on the year to find out what the press wrote about their work in the exhibition, if anything.  Sometimes they were just names on a list of workers or exhibitors.

I think that a few of these women were the most exhibited artists in the province prior to 1948. None of these art societies held juried exhibitions, in the modern sense of the term.  Their published guidelines to submitting artists for Saskatchewan artist shows required that the artwork be new, original, not a copy, come labelled and be limited to five pieces per person.  But if their clubs had not existed, many male and female artists would have had few opportunities to exhibit and even the well-known artists of the early twentieth century would have been less admired. Unlike other women artist societies in Canada, the WAA and the LCW Arts Committee in Regina had no problem exhibiting the work of male artists.

Apart from Cheryl Meszaros’ master’s thesis Visibility and Representation: Saskatchewan Art Organizations in Saskatchewan prior to 1945 (1988 Queen’s University) and a few unpublished essays she mentions in her footnotes, the last time any press attention was focused on these women’s achievements was probably in 1978 when the Rosemont Gallery, a community satellite of the Norman Mackenzie Gallery in Regina, presented a show featuring the work of some of them.  Unfortunately, the report on the exhibition is very general, highlighting the significance of historical art organizations, and few artist names are cited.

There is some material on the Regina LCW Art Committees in the general files of the Regina Local Council of Women at the Saskatchewan Archives Board in Regina and more material can be found in the Ethel Barr papers there.  However, the record of this committee is not complete. I do not have access to the published History of the Regina LCW updated by Ethel Barr or her predecessors or successors. I have been unable to find any archival collection associated with the Women’s Art Association of Saskatchewan. Although they reported to the national organization, there doesn’t seem to be any record of them in the archives for the WAA in Toronto. For this reason I have paid careful attention to the activities of each group that I found in the newspapers and linked these activities to the appropriate posts labelled Saskatchewan Women’s Art Association and Regina Local Council of Women Arts Committee.

Evidently, granny’s papers went out with the trash, along with a lot of her paintings and crafts, in posthumous clearances.  Again, I identify with this and that is why I am using my accumulated research archive to write this blog before it is time to throw my files away.

©Lisa G. Henderson

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