Art & Artists in Exhibition: Vancouver 1890 - 1950
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B.C. Society of Fine Arts

(also B.C. Society of Artists)

1908 - 1967


The B.C. Society of Fine Arts was founded in Vancouver in 1908. Five people, including Thomas Fripp and John Kyle got together with the aim of forming a group of artists, and organized a public meeting on November 13, 1908 to discuss the possiblities . The Society was officially formed that evening, with twenty people joining as members. The Society immediately began to organize their first exhibition, which took place April 20 - 28, 1909. There were 179 artworks on display at the Dominion Hall on Pender Street, and an exhibition catalogue was printed. Much of the artwork was available for purchase, with prices ranging from $7.00 to $250.00, although one painting was priced at $1,000.00.

In 1910 the Society published their Constitution And By-Laws, formally laying out the framework of operations.

Charles Marega resigned from the BCSFA in 1919. The BCSFA board expressed their regret, and moved to ask him to "clearly state the reason for this rather extreme action". There is no record of his reply. (BCSFA Fond, Vancouver City Archives)

From the Minutes from the Special Meeting of October 24, 1922, held at Thomas Fripp's studio:
   "The meeting being adjourned the members passed to the adjacent room of the Sketch Club. ... a piano having been moved in ... Mrs. S.P. Judge played an impressive opening selection ... Mrs. Scott obliged with violin selections ... Mr. Frank Hoole with songs ... Mr. C.H. Scott brought "down the house" with a serio-comic recitation appertaining to a barber and a "howling swell" ..."

The 1931 Annual meeting of the BCSFA was held at W.P. Westons's house at 1045 West 15th Avenue, Vancouver. New members elected were Beatrice Lennie, Miss Melvin, Mr. Maynard, Mr. Fred Amess, and Mr. Ross Lort.


           

           

           



The Society prospered, putting on exhibitions (see below) in Vancouver for fifty-seven years, although they were always hampered by the lack of their own gallery to exhibit in. They wandered from venue to venue until the Vancouver Art Gallery opened in 1931 and finally gave the BCSFA a home, albeit still borrowed (or rented). The Society had their group and solo exhibitions there until 1967, when Director Luke Rombout finally cast them out.

By that time, perhaps, he had good reason. The Society had not fared well following the Second World War. Too many competing styles of painting and expression fractured the old organization and dispersed new talent in other directions. The Society was formally renamed in 1950 to the British Columbia Society of Artists, and a new group of Associate Members was created, to help the Society adapt and stay current in post-war Vancouver.

A history of the Society was written for the 40th Annual Exhibition in 1950.

The Society came to be seen as old-fashioned, new groups sprang up, and membership in the BCSFA slowly dropped. Finally one last desperate mailing was sent out in 1967, begging old members (and new) to sign up and revitalize the group. The plea did not succeed, and the remaining members of the group voted it out of existence and donated its records to the Vancouver City Archives. It was a quiet and unfortunate end to a Society that had helped support, develop, and exhibit hundreds of excellent artists, including many of the historic painters still well known and highly sought after today, Emily Carr, Jack Shadbolt, W.P. Weston, and E.J. Hughes to name just a few.

The Society served its purpose well for many years, providing an important venue for artists to show and sell their work, using the stable foundation of the annual exhibitions. Because the rules of the Society required that members exhibit new work every year, an atmosphere of continuous creativity was engendered. The Society's tenure spanned from the pioneer artists of Vancouver who founded the group through to the rise to prominence of the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts students and graduates of the 1930s and 1940s, who were further seasoned by the Depression and by the Second World War.

The end of the Society and its Annual Exhibitions in 1967 left a vaccuum in the Vancouver art scene. Ironically, nine years after Vancouver Art Gallery Director Luke Rombout decided not to allow the Society to hold its Annual Exhibition at his gallery (because he felt that their type of group exhibition, if not their art as well, was no longer relevant to the art scene) he was to write in an exhibition catalogue:

    "The mounting dissatisfaction and cynicism surrounding annual Canadian exhibitions of a few years ago, and their subsequent disappearance, have made way for a recognition of the fact that a profound need for current major group shows has reemerged. Many artists across the country have begun to lament the absence of measurable and tangible information - the public too, we sense, is increasingly looking for more comprehensive evidence of current Canadian art."
     from "17 Canadian Artists: A Protean View", Vancouver Art Gallery, 1976.

The difficulties of putting on exhibitions that provide "comprehensive evidence of current Canadian art" continue to challenge the Vancouver art community. The series of Artropolis exhibitions was the latest major effort to provide a common and open venue for exhibition, the kind of show that the B.C. Society of Fine Arts hosted so ably for more than half a century.

Exhibitions

1909 April 20 - 28 1st Annual Exhibition
1909 November 2nd Exhibition
1910 May 3rd Exhibition
1911 ? - ? ( ? ) Exhibition
1912 November 25 - 30 Annual Exhibition
1913 ? - ? ( ? ) Exhibition
1914 ? - ? ( ? ) Exhibition
1915 April Exhibition of Works By Members
1916 ? - ? ( ? ) Exhibition
1917 September 14 - 22 11th Exhibition
1918 ? - ? ( ? ) Exhibition
1919 ? - ? ( ? ) Exhibition
1920 September 18 - 25 12th Annual Exhibition
1921 September 19 - 24 13th Annual Exhibition
1922 September 16 - 23 14th Annual Exhibition
1923 May 12 - 19 15th Annual Exhibition
1924 May 3 - 17 16th Annual Exhibition
1925 May 9 - 16 17th Annual Exhibition
1926 May 8 - 15 18th Annual Exhibition
1927 June 10 - 25 19th Annual Exhibition
1928 April 27 - ? 20th Annual Exhibition
1929 May 18 - June 8 21st Annual Exhibition
1929 November 16 - 30 Winter Exhibition
1930 May 31 - June 14 Spring Exhibition
1930 August 6 - 16 Vancouver Exhibition - Paintings by Members
1930 November 12 - ? ( ? ) Exhibition
1931 ? - ? ( ? ) Exhibition
1932 ? - ? ( ? ) Exhibition
Editor: Numbering of annual exhibitions changes to following sequence around this time.
1933 June 3 - 11 23rd Annual Exhibition
1934 May 25 - June 3 24th Annual Exhibition
1935 April 26 - May 5 25th Annual Exhibition
1936 June 25 - July 12 26th Annual (Jubilee) Exhibition
1937 April 16 - May 2 27th Annual Exhibition
1938 April 29 - May 15 28th Annual Exhibition
1939 June 9 - 25 29th Annual Exhibition
1940 May 17 - June 2 30th Annual Exhibition
1940 July 30 - Sept. 1 Summer Exhibition
1941 May 16 - June 1 31st Annual Exhibition
1942 May 15 - 31 32nd Annual Exhibition
1942 (summer) Calgary Stampede - Loan Collection
Works selected from 32nd Annual
1943 May 15 - June 6 33rd Annual Exhibition
1944 May 13 - June 4 34th Annual Exhibition
1945 May 18 - June 10 35th Annual Exhibition
1946 May 31 - June 23 36th Annual Exhibition
1947 May 9 - June 1 37th Annual Exhibition
1948 May 18 - June 6 38th Annual Exhibition
1949 May 3 - 22 39th Annual Exhibition
1950 April 25 - May 14 40th Annual Exhibition

Editor's Note: BCSFA/BCSA exhibitions continued until 1967, but are not listed here after 1950.

Clippings

"The annual exhibition of pictures by members of the B.C. Fine Arts society (sic) is the best possible evidence of the soundness and wholesomeness of our Western civilization. ... (continues).
      From "Pictures at B.C. Fine Arts", by J. Butterfield
      Vancouver Daily Province, September 19 1921, page 12

"The private view of the exhibition of the B.C. Society of Fine Arts on Saturday evening was a most successful affair. Two things made it so. In the first place, it was pictorially speaking one of the best shows that highly respectable Society has had, and secondly, it was held in far better quarters than they have ever been fortunate enough to secure for their shows. As a charter member of the organization from its inception twenty years ago, I can look back on some weird places in which from year to year, we attempted to show the public that we were alive, if not kicking."
      From "B.C. Society of Fine Arts", by Diogenes
      Vancouver Daily Province, November 13 1930

"It was '43 I think, when I was last in Trail, to see the first exhibit of Vancouver artists, sponsored by James L. (sic) Amess, of B.C. Fine Arts association, Vancouver, Mrs. Mildred V. Thornton, Bess Symons, Fred Amess and the writer." (continues)
      From "LIKES WESTON", by "Allan P. Allsebrook"
      Trail Daily Times, March 1948

"Thirty-ninth annual exhibition of the B.C. Society of Fine Arts at the Gallery, opened Monday by Mayor Thompson, is undoubtedly one of the finest displays by this leading professional artist organization. ... (continues)"
      From "Lively Spirit Pervades B.C. Artists' Exhibition" by Palette. Vancouver Daily Province, May 3 1949


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