Art & Artists in Exhibition: Vancouver 1890 - 1950
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Grace Wilson Melvin

May 28 1892 - March 3 1977

D.A. (Glasgow)
Glasgow Society of Lady Artists
Scribe to the Corporation of Glasgow
Federation of Canadian Artists (Founding Member 1941)


Grace Wilson Melvin was born in Glasgow, Scotland. She graduated with honours from the Glasgow School of Art in 1918. She exhibited her work at the Royal Scottish Academy, at the National Gallery of Canada between 1928 and 1934, and with the Royal Canadian Academy in 1932.

In 1927 she was "loaned" to the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts for a year. She was the sister of Charles Hepburn Scott's wife. At the end of the year, she declined to return to Scotland, instead staying in Vancouver and becoming Head of the Department of Design for the VSDAA. She also taught Lettering and Illumination, Embroidery, and Pottery.

Interestingly, she exxhibited her artwork in the 1922 annual exhibition of the B.C. Society of Fine Arts, a few years before moving here. This would likely have been arranged by Charles Scott. Melvin also exhibited with the BCSFA from 1936 to 1962, 1966, and in the final BCSFA exhibition in 1967.

In 1927 she exhibited an illumination with the Island Arts and Crafts Society. In 1928 she wrote an article titled Pattern for the third edition of The Paint Box, the art school's annual. The article was illustrated with woodcuts by Ada Currie, one of the school's students.


From the Savary Pudding, 1939

She attended the Vancouver School of Art summer camps on Savary Island, and provided content to issues of THE SAVARY PUDDING. This included an entire sheet of poetry titled OUTDOOR SKETCHES, consisting of the four poems below:
    Wet Woods in June
    Sound of the Sea
    The Woods at Night
    Requiem


From the Savary Pudding, 1939

Melvin exhibited in the annual B.C. Artists exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery in the inaugural show in 1932, also 1933, 1955 to 1958, 1960, and 1961.

The Spring 1936 edition of The Smock Pocket, the Vancouver School of Art Graduates' Association newsletter, noted that she was one of three jurors for the association's Fourth Annual Exhibition.

She donated artwork to an FCA fundraising exhibition for the Canadian Red Cross at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1942.

Melvin illustrated The Indian Speaks for Marius Barbeau in 1943, and achieved national notice. Her solo exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1943 consisted of 42 illustrations for the book.

She also wrote books on lettering and design, including Structure of Design and Colour and Lettering for Artists and Art Students, published for the Department of Education at the University of British Columbia. She also did a series of cards for lettering titled Basic Lettering for Art Students, published by Longmans, Green & Co. in England. She was the editor for a book titled Applied Art Home Economics published in 1940 by the B.C. Department of Education in Victoria, B.C.

On January 25, 1947 she gave a lecture titled Color in the Home under the auspices of the Vancouver Institute.

She submitted three ink drawings to the 1949 B.C. Graphic exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery, two of them were selected for the exhibition.

She was an outstanding illustrator and calligrapher, and illustrated the Book of Remembrance for the Canadian Engineers for World Wars I and II, which is housed in St. Paul's Cathedral, London.

In 1961 a short artist summary on Melvin's personal letterhead was provided to the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Melvin's contribution to the arts in Vancouver and Canada was substantial, and her work was widely exhibited in her lifetime, and is in many major collections, yet she remains one of the lesser known artists of Western Canada. She died in 1977 at the age of eighty-four, according to data from B.C. Archives Vital Statistics.

Exhibitions

SOLO EXHIBITIONS
DATE EXHIBITION LOCATION
1943 May 14 - 27 Illustrations - The Indian Speaks VAG
1954 April 6 - May 12 Paintings by Grace Melvin in chalk and water-colour VAG
1955 June 14 - 27 Paintings by Grace Melvin in chalk and water-colour The Arts Centre of Greater Victoria
1966 April 1 - 30 Poetic Realism Burnaby Art Gallery, 7252 Kingsway
1974 August 12 - 24 Flowers of the Easel Bau-Xi Gallery, 3003 Granville St.

GROUP EXHIBITIONS
DATE EXHIBITION ARTWORK
1922 Sept. 16 - 23 BCSFA   14th Annual Exhibition To Our Guest
Requiem
Illumination on Vellum
To Our Guest
1932 May - July VAG   All Canadian Exhibition The Year
Amor Vincit Omnia
St. Marks, Venice
1932 Oct. 5 - 30 VAG   B.C. Artists 1st Annual Life's Pageant (Illumination)
Madonna (Illumination)
Arbutus and Fir
The Cottage in the Cove
1933 May 20 - 31 VAG   Palette & Chisel Club Exhibition Illumination
The Beatitudes
Luther's Cradle Hymn
Life's Pageant
Triptych Altar Piece
Church Altar Piece
1933 Sept. 22 - Oct. 15 VAG   B.C. Artists 2nd Annual And Night Came
Evening Glory, Red Roofs, B.C.
1942 Nov. 3 - 15 FCA   Red Cross Benefit (no information available)
1949 Nov. 22 - Dec. 11 VAG   First B.C. Graphic Indian Legend - The Curse of Kamalmouk
Indian Legend - The Dream of Kamalmouk
The Urge of Spring (rejected)


References - MONOGRAPHS

Refer to BIBLIO.

References - GROUP EXHIBITIONS

3rd BC GRAPHIC & CANADIAN SOCIETY OF GRAPHIC ART (refer to BCG57)

100 YEARS OF B.C. ART (refer to VAG58)

B.C. PAINTINGS BURNABY 58 (refer to BAG58)

B.C. ARTISTS 27th ANNUAL (refer to BCA58)

SPRING EXHIBITION - FCA - BC REGION (refer to FCA64)

SOME PAINTERS OF THE B.C. MAINLAND (refer to AGGV66)

B.C. ARTISTS' TRIBUTE TO COLIN GRAHAM (refer to AGGV74)

CONTEMPORARIES OF EMILY CARR IN BRITISH COLUMBIA (refer to SFU74)

VANCOUVER SCHOOL OF ART - THE EARLY YEARS, 1925 - 1939, by E. Theodore Lindberg
      1980 Sept. 15 - Oct 15, The Inaugural Exhibition of the Charles H. Scott Gallery; no ISBN
      Exhibition catalogue, 36 pages; instructor & student work illustrated in colour and b&w
      Includes colour plate of Melvin's Halleluia, gold and oil paint on vellum

VANCOUVER: ART & ARTISTS 1931 - 1983 (refer to VAG83)

BRITISH COLUMBIA WOMEN ARTISTS 1885-1985 (refer to AGGV85)

EARLY BRITISH COLUMBIAN WOMAN ARTISTS (refer to HG95)

BEYOND THE CANVAS - Artists, Stories and the Sea by Jennifer Breckon and James P. Delgado
      Featuring the Mary and Bill Everett Family Collection
      2000, ISBN 0-9695221-4-2; exhibition at the Vancouver Martime Museum; illust. in colour
      Includes Foreword by Patricia E. Bovey, Introduction by James P. Delgado; list of works
      Essay A Collector Recollects by Bill Everett
      Exhibition included work by Melvin

References - GENERAL

(lettering book)
      Referenced in John Kyle's Manual for Industrial Design Vol. 3: Lettering, 1931

Attendee at the 1935 Vancouver School of Art Summer Camp
(refer to SUMMER SKETCHING CAMP - SAVARY ISLAND)

THE SAVARY PUDDING folio by Frederick A. Amess, private collection.
   Original drawings, paintings and text by Amess, C.H. Scott, Grace Melvin,
       H. Mortimer Lamb, Plato von Ustinov, and other students and visitors.
   June 1935 (various dates), June 1939 (various dates)
   52 loose 12"x18" sheets of brown sketch paper

WHO'S WHO IN NORTHWEST ART (refer to WWNA41)

THE FINE ARTS IN VANCOUVER, 1886 - 1930 (refer to THOM)

ISLAND ARTS AND CRAFTS SOCIETY - List of Exhibitors

Represented by The Gallery of the Golden Key (refer to GGK)

VISUAL ARTS BRITISH COLUMBIA (refer to VABC77)

FROM DESOLATION TO SPLENDOUR
Changing Perceptions of the British Columbia Landscape

      1977, by Maria Tippet and Douglas Cole
      Clarke Irwin & Co., ISBN 0-7720-1048-X
      159 pages; illustrated; foreward by Jack Shadbolt
      Includes references to Melvin, colour plate of Red Mountain and Garibaldi Lake
         (1927 gouache on paper)

BRITISH COLUMBIA ART COLLECTION 1974-80 (refer to BCAC80)

ROYAL CANADIAN ACADEMY OF ARTS -
EXHIBITIONS & MEMBERS 1880 - 1979
(refer to RCA81)
      Lists 2 illuminations on vellum exhibited in 1932.

ARTISTS IN CANADA 1982 - UNION LIST OF ARTISTS' FILES (refer to AIC82)

A DICTIONARY OF CANADIAN ARTISTS (refer to M)
      One page biography, numerous references.

VANCOUVER ARTIST: Grace Melvin
      2001 July; by Michael Clark, Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design.
      Visions newsletter, Volume 7 Issue 3, page 10.
      One page biography with 2 illustrations of her work.

BIOGRAPHICAL INDEX OF ARTISTS IN CANADA (refer to BIAC03)
      9 references cited for Melvin.

THE FECKLESS COLLECTION (refer to FECK18)

VANCOUVER PUBLIC LIBRARY - B.C. ARTISTS FILES (refer to VPL)

Clippings

"Two examples of illumination by Grace W. Melvin would be admired by even the uneducated public. There is no need for any special education to perceive their beauty. They take us back to the work of centuries ago, which would hold its own if it were exhibited now."
      From "B.C. Society of Fine Arts" by Bernard McEvoy
      Vancouver Daily Province, April 28 1928

"It's time to leave you again and return to sanity and city life - But is it sanity? Sanity to part from altogether congenial company, from the noise and racket of friendly argument, laughter and a continuous 3-ring circus. To say good-bye to sunsets that whirl you in ecstacy (sic) & drench you with bewildering colour, to the movement of sunshine and shadow on the mountains and the music of the water - Farewell - Savary 1935 - and may we have many Happy Returns."
      From "Good old Savary" by Grace Melvin
      Savary Pudding, Vol. 2, 1935

"Miss Melvin gave a bairning recitation while the audience "cuddled doon" in armchairs and enjoyed it immensely."
     From "Personal"
      Savary Pudding, June 9 1939

"Miss Melvin, running for Glasgow veterans beats Beefy Marpole Freddy to tape in shipdeck 10-length handicap."
      From " "GRACE" before "MEAT" "
      Savary Pudding, 1939

" ... Among those contibuting paintings and drawings are: ... Grace W. Melvin ... "
      From "Noted Artists Offer Paintings For Red Cross"
      Vancouver Daily Province (presumed), November 1942

"The staff consisted of F.H. Varley, J.W.G. Macdonald, Charles Marega, Kate Smith Hoole, and Grace Melvin."
      From "A Short Art History of British Columbia", by Charles H. Scott
      Behind The Palette, June 1947

"The quality of painting in B.C. exhibitions has been greatly strengthened by the inclusion of works by former students. This reflects the good work of a loyal and enthusiastic staff consisting at present of Grace W. Melvin, Fred A. Amess, B.C. Binning, J.L. Shadbolt, and a number of other teachers, past and present, in the Day, Evening and Saturday Morning Classes."
      From "A Short Art History of British Columbia", by Charles H. Scott
      Behind The Palette, June 1947


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