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Bessie Fry Symons was born in Farringdon (also Farinden), Berkshire, England in 1884. According to a Rootsweb file her parents were Joseph Howard Fry (1857 - 1913) and Adelaide Lucy Taylor (1854 - ?), and two brothers and two sisters are listed as siblings. She later married Richard Symons (born c1882 - ?). She studied in England with Frank Spenlove-Spenlove, and was a pupil at the Art Student's League in New York.
Details of her early life are not clear, but she came to Canada by ship, arriving in Halifax (date unknown). She enlisted as a Nursing Sister in the Canadian Army Medical Corps at Montreal on August 28, 1918, aged 33. The enlistment form notes that she had "prior military experience" and that her civilian occupation was "Graduated Nurse". She was living at the Windsor Hotel, Montreal at the time. Her next of kin was given as "Mother - Mrs. Adelaide Lucy Fry, South Fort George, B.C., Canada." The form also gave her religion as Wesleyan, date of birth Dec. 24 1884 at Farinden, Birks, England.
Sometime after the war she moved to Vancouver, where she was a student of F.H. Varley and J.W.G. Macdonald at the Vancouver School of Art.
She exhibited her work at the Jasper Park Lodge in 1932 with Gertrude Lawson.
She had a solo exhibition at Jasper, Alberta in 1922, and also showed work at the Seattle Art Museum. She exhibited with the Royal Canadian Academy in 1927, 1930, 1932, and 1933. Between 1927 and 1930 she exhibited work in exhibitions held by the Island Arts and Crafts Society.
In 1928 she served as one of the Jurors for the 1st Annual International Salon of Watercolours held by the Provincial Exhibition in New Westminster. She exhibited at the Vancouver Exhibition in 1930, representing both the B.C. Society of Fine Arts and the Vancouver Sketch Club. She showed work in the B.C. Artists Christmas exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1933.
Her painting "Maples in Summer" (exhibited in the 1934 BC Artists annual) was chosen by the VAG for a traveling exhibition, titled Fifty BC Artist Pictures, that was shown at the Edmonton Art Gallery. Date is uncertain, presumably immediately after the annual while all artworks were available for selection. The show may also have traveled to other galleries.
In 1933 Fry had a solo exhibition of her oil paintings, watercolours, prints, and drawings at the Vancouver Art Gallery. An exhibition catalogue was produced for this exhibition, titled "Paintings, Prints, and Pastels", on file at the Art Gallery Library. She had another solo exhibition at the VAG in 1940, for which a list of exhibits is on file at the Art Gallery Library, and a solo watercolour exhibition in 1948 with 29 paintings.
WHO'S WHO IN NORTHWEST ART (1941, Frank McCaffrey, Seattle) provides perhaps the best summary of Fry's life to that time:
FRY, Bessie Adelaide, Hollyburn, West Vancouver, B.C.
Painter (water color; oil; pastel); Printmaker (linoleum block color print) -- Born Berkshire, England. Studied in England. Pupil of Art Students' League of New York; Vancouver Sch. of Art (Frederick H. Varley and James W.G. Macdonald); Frank Spenlove-Spenlove. Member: Edmonton Art Club (life member); B.C. Society of Fine Arts, and Arts & Letters Club, Vancouver. Awards: For landscape (oil), $15, Edmonto, (sic) 1927; For greeting card design, $100, IODE all-Canadian competition, Toronto, 1926. Work: "Gulf of Georgia" (oil), Normal Sch. Collection, Edmonton; "Flowing North", entrance to Peace Country (oil), Columbian College Collection, New Westminster; "The way to Calumet", alpine meadow (oil), Edmonton Art Gallery. One-man exh.: Jasper, Alberta, 1922; Vancouver Art Gallery, 1932. Exhibitor at Royal Canadian Acad., 1927, 1930, 1932; Seattle Art Mus.; Vancouver Art Gallery; with West Vancouver Artists, 1939. Teacher of art, The Towers (formerly Columbian College), New Westminster, 1926-1939. Summer classes, Jasper, Alberta.
She showed work in the B.C. Artists annual exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery from 1932 to 1947. She submitted two linocuts to the 1949 B.C. Graphic exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery, one of them was selected for the exhibition. "October Study, Jasper" was not. She was living on Read Island at the time. She was a member of the West Vancouver Sketch Club in 1951.
She had a solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in 1963.
She died in Victoria in 1976, age 91. A small monograph on her artwork was published in Victoria in 2002 (see biblio).
|1933 April 21 - 30||Solo Show (Paintings, Prints & Pastels)||Vancouver Art Gallery|
|1940 April 23 - May 5||Solo Show (Oil, W/C, Prints, Drawing)||Vancouver Art Gallery|
|1948 April 6 - 25||Solo Show (29 Watercolours)||Vancouver Art Gallery|
|1963 Oct. 29 - Nov. 17||Solo Show (Landscapes)||Art Gallery of Greater Victoria|
|1920 September 18 - 25||BCSFA Annual Exhibition||Pyramid Lake, Jasper Park|
|1927 June 10 - 25||BCSFA 19th Annual||After Sunset, Northern Winter|
|A Little Lamp to make my Darkness Brave|
|Peaceful Evening, Kent|
|1929 May 18 - June 8||BCSFA 21st Annual||Trees by the Fraser|
|Under the Cedars|
|The Straits of Georgia|
|Snowfall on the Mountains|
|West Coast, Vancouver Island|
|1929 Nov. 16 - 30||BCSFA Winter Exhibition||Grey Twilight|
|A Little Light in a Grey Day, Jasper|
|A Glacier Hinge Peak, Tonquin Valley|
|Maccarib Peak, Tonquin Vallery|
|The Summit, Maccarib Pass|
|In Tonquin Valley|
|Fresh Snow on the Summit|
|1930 May 31 - June 14||BCSFA Spring Exhibition||West Coast April|
|1930 Aug. 6 - 16||VanExh Oil Paintings & Water-colours||Winter Night|
|The Little Clearing|
|April - West Coast|
|1932 May - July||VAG All Canadian Exhibition||The Source|
|The Little Clearing|
|Head of the Valley|
|1932 Oct. 5 - 30||VAG B.C. Artists 1st Annual||A Dogwood Tree|
|Solitude in Summer|
|Spring, New Westminster|
|Summer Evening, Poplar Country|
|1933 June 3 - 11||BCSFA 23rd Annual||Apple Blossom in May|
|Mount Edith Cavell|
|1933 Sept. 22 - Oct. 15||VAG B.C. Artists 2nd Annual||Cherry Blossom|
|In the Woods, Midsummer|
|1933 Dec. 1 - 17||VAG B.C. Artists Christmas Exhibition||Cherry Blossom|
|Snow-Fall (Color Print)|
|September, Rocky Mountains (Color Print)|
|1934 Sept. 21 - Oct. 14||VAG B.C. Artists 3rd Annual||In Horseshoe Bay|
|Maples in Summer, Ocean Park|
|1934 ? - ?||VAG B.C. Artists Edmonton Exhibition||Maples in Summer|
|1934 Dec. 4 - 16||VAG B.C. Artists Christmas Exhibition||Evening Star|
|The Deer Trail|
|1935 Sept. 20 - Oct. 15||VAG B.C. Artists 4th Annual||Cabin by the Creek|
|The Holly Tree|
|1936 June 26 - July 12||BCSFA 26th Annual||In Horseshoe Bay|
|October in the Canyon|
|1936 Aug. 18 - 28||David Spencer B.C. Artists' Golden Jubilee||(artwork)|
|1936 Sept. 18 - Oct. 11||VAG B.C. Artists 5th Annual||Over the Hill (Jasper)|
|1936 Oct. 15 - 20||VAG B.C. Artists Chilliwack Exhibition||Over the Hill (Jasper)|
|1937 April 16 - May 1||BCSFA 27th Annual||Rain on the Lake|
|Summer Evening, West Vancouver|
|In the Canyon, Lynn Valley|
|1937 Sept. 17 - Oct. 10||VAG B.C. Artists 6th Annual||How Still the Night|
|After Rain, Bow River, Banff|
|1938 April 29 - May 15||BCSFA 28th Annual||Four O'clock|
|1938 Sept. 16 - Oct. 9||VAG B.C. Artists 7th Annual||On the Moraine|
|Snow Patch on the Pass|
|Columbia Ice-Fields, Camp, 1938|
|1939 June 9 - 25||BCSFA 29th Annual||Path in Autumn|
|Ice in Summer|
|1940 May 17 - June 2||BCSFA 30th Annual||Spring in Gray and Green|
|1940 Sept. 20 - Oct. 13||VAG B.C. Artists 9th Annual||Rocky Mountain Study|
|Rocky Mountain Trail|
|Coast, Early Autumn|
|1941 May 10 - June 1||BCSFA 31st Annual||Moss Mountain Trail|
|1941 Sept. 26 - Oct. 19||VAG B.C. Artists 10th Annual||Lily Pool|
|Cabin, Texada Island|
|1942 May 15 - 31||BCSFA 32nd Annual||Industrial|
|Intermezzo (lino cuts)|
|1942 July 7 - Sept. 2||VAG B.C. Artists 1st Annual Summer||Rocky Mountain Scene|
|1942 Nov. 3 - 15||FCA Red Cross Benefit||(no information available)|
|1943 May 15 - June 6||BCSFA 33rd Annual||After Rain, Banff|
|Dogwood by the Creek|
|August Morning, Banff|
|Under Rock and Root|
|1944 May 13 - June 4||BCSFA 34th Annual||Hillside in Autumn|
|Pine in the Selkirks|
|Alder in March|
|1944 July 4 - Aug. 30||VAG B.C. Artists 3rd Annual Summer||Hillside in Autumn|
|1944 Sept. 23 - Oct. 22||VAG B.C. Artists 13th Annual||Lamp in the Window, West Bay|
|1945 May 18 - June 10||BCSFA 35th Annual||Finnish Settlement|
|Pool In The Woods|
|Old Home, Read Island|
|1945 July 3 - Aug. 26||VAG B.C. Artists 4th Annual Summer||Pool in the Woods|
|1946 May 31 - June 23||BCSFA 36th Annual||To a Fallen Generation, Loggers' Spar Tree|
|1946 Sept. 21 - Oct. 13||VAG B.C. Artists 15th Annual||Up the Inlet|
|Among the Islands|
|1947 May 9 - June 1||BCSFA 37th Annual||Willow in March|
|1947 Sept. 20 - Oct. 12||VAG B.C. Artists 16th Annual||Green Pastures|
|1949 May 3 - 22||BCSFA 39th Annual||Coast Range Winter|
|1949 Nov. 22 - Dec. 11||VAG First B.C. Graphic||October Night, Jasper (rejected)|
|Logging on the Islands|
IMAGES OF THE LAND: CANADIAN BLOCK PRINTS 1919 - 1945
1985; by Patricia Ainslie, Glenbow Museum, Calgary Alberta.
Includes biography and illustrations of works in exhibition
DAILY GRIND EXHIBITIONS (refer to DG07)
THE FINE ARTS IN VANCOUVER, 1886 - 1930 (refer to THOM)
ISLAND ARTS AND CRAFTS SOCIETY - List of Exhibitors
ROYAL CANADIAN ACADEMY OF ARTS -
EXHIBITIONS & MEMBERS 1880 - 1979 (refer to RCA81)
ARTISTS IN CANADA 1982 - UNION LIST OF ARTISTS' FILES (refer to AIC82)
BIOGRAPHICAL INDEX OF ARTISTS IN CANADA
(refer to BIAC03)
4 references cited for Fry.
WEST VANCOUVER SKETCH CLUB - LIST OF MEMBER 1947-1977 (refer to WVSC)
THE FECKLESS COLLECTION (refer to FECK18)
"Miss B.A. Fry's small but choice pastels filled their niche well."
From "B.C. Society of Fine Arts", by Diogenes
Vancouver Daily Province, November 13 1930
"Exhibition of Young Artists at Gallery"
by D.S.M., Vancouver Sun, April 22 1933
"In The Domain of Art"
by Reta W. Myers, Daily Province, April 24 1933
"Many other well-known artists are represented, including ... Bessie A. Fry ... "
From "Bargains in Art" Vancouver Sun, December 1, 1933
"Six Shows During April in Gallery"
by unknown, News Herald, March 30 1940
"Variety in Art Gallery Exhibit"
by unknown, News Herald, April 24 1940
" ... together with oil and watercolour paintings by ...
Bessie A. Fry ... all contribute much to this extraordinary show."
From "B.C. Society of Fine Arts Display Sets New High Mark," by Palette Vancouver Daily Province, May 16, 1942
" ... Among those contibuting paintings and drawings are: ... Bessie A. Symons ... "
From "Noted Artists Offer Paintings For Red Cross" Vancouver Daily Province (presumed), November 1942
"Among other prominent exhibitors are ... Bessie Fry ...
From "Summer Show at Gallery Major Event for Art Lovers," by Palette Vancouver Daily Province, July 7, 1943
"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,
Fred Amess and the writer.(continues)"
From "LIKES WESTON", by "Allan P. Allsebrook"
Trail Daily Times, March 1948
"No Sunday Painters Here"
by Nikki Moir, Vancouver Sun, May 21 1960
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