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Calvert Page 21b2

Great Canadian Art & Artists

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Return From Church - Fanny Colwill Calvert c 1905
Orig. wc - Size - 16" x 20"
Found - Toronto, ON
Orig. frame & glass
In a classic 19th century scene, that could have been used for a Christmas card, Fanny has shown her marvellous sense of composition in an exterior view. A frozen creek leads the eye into the picture towards a church, off to the rear from which a single person has left, already across a bridge, which leads the eye forward again, to the couple on their way home, and out the picture. The bold tree in the foreground adds a strong three-dimensional sense of space.

She has masterfully composed all her key elements into perfect placement inside an oval frame, a display format much beloved in Victorian and Edwardian Canadian parlours.

It also shows a typical "Canadian" approach to exteriors - the land dominates; the figures are mere accents - but breathe real life into what could have been a static scene.

Fanny Colwill Calvert (1848-1936) - 2

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Still Life Master: Fanny Calvert was also a superb still-life painter as the examples below show.

Art dealers pay high prices for still-life's because they are among the most popular genres of art, probably because they give the viewer a focus for the soul separate from the troublesome reminders of the cares of daily life - which is probably the same reason that painters like Fanny paint them in the first place.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Nasturtiums, Fanny Colwill Calvert c 1910
Orig. oil laid on board - Size - 13.5" x 14"
Found - Toronto, ON

A wonderfully arranged, golden glow of nasturtiums. Though a master portrait painter, Fanny was just as adept at still-life painting, as shown by this marvellous capture of flowers in a jar. Probably, in painting still lifes, she sought escape from her daily cares, which, often thanks to her driven personality, were abundant enough.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Convent Roses, Fanny colwill Calvert c 1910
Orig. pastel - Size - 11 x 13"
Found - Toronto, ON
Fanny expertly switched her palette to rose, in this exquisite still life of convent roses. The close-ups, on the left show the enormous attention to detailed strokes with pencil and then crayons Fanny had to apply to bring ou the full glory of these roses on the strile blank paper.

Postscript:
The Guelph library was the highlight of the W. Frye Colwill firm of architects. Will left the scene of the library turmoil and dropped from public view for a couple of years. No wonder - in 1905 he had secretly married the dressmaker of whom Fanny had so strongly disapproved. Fanny blew up but came to accept the relationship, and had the couple over for dinner every weekend thereafter.

Will had also turned to painting. "The Assumption" which he painted in 1904, featured angels. It is said the figure on the left was a portrait of his mother Fanny - a heartfelt tribute from a son who knew that he was uniquely blessed for her unceasing constancy to him and her expanding family circle.

In 1918 Will moved to Muskoka, opened up the Clovelly Inn, and discovered that tourism was more rewarding than being an architect in a small Ontario town. Fanny followed soon after.

In 1927 Will was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue, and radium treatments would not stop the disease. He died the next year.

Fanny lived out her old age with the worst burden of all - outliving a favourite child, on whom she had invested so much time, money, effort, and psychic energy. Certainly, she must have grieved many times, that God could not be a woman.

Fanny died in 1936; she was 88, having proved that an assertive mind, ceaselessly at work on creative pursuits, is the best possible recipe for a long and healthy life span.

Her paint brush, her crayons, were stilled at last, but not her legacy...

A century after they were painted, her wonderful works of art still hang, lovingly cherished and displayed, in countless homes across southern Ontario.

Insight Canada

Canada's Shame - Hey, What about the picture?

"Oh I have ten Jacksons, and three Johnstons."
- overheard from a Toronto lawyer & "art connoisseur"

"Oh, no, not me. I'm not really interested in art - not Canadian anyway - but the law firm I work for has sent me over to buy a Harris or a Jackson, whatever..."
- shared confidence at Joyner\Waddingtons Toronto auction

(PS She was lucky and ended up with a very small "Harris" for only $12,000, featuring a couple of small mounted camels tucked into the upper left corner of a canvas featuring mostly empty, unfeatured sand, sand, sand! Probably she thought it was a view of Sandbanks in Picton County, Ontario, or perhaps the Lake Athabaska Sand Dunes of Saskatchewan.

Probably clients are now being paraded proudly past it in the hall of the corporate office whose wall it now graces. "You really must come to see our Harris - he's Group of Seven you know . See here, two Ojibway warriors on camels. They were wiped out in Canada, you know - the camels, I mean - like the passenger pigeon, and the buffalo, and oh yes, the Doo Doo bird...")

Fanny Colwill Calvert of Guelph, Ontario, was honoured with hundreds of prizes for her art in her lifetime. But the Canadian art establishment snubbed her. There was more glory to be had - and money to be made - in promoting the Group of Seven, out of all proportion to their value in representing the art and artistic visions of Canada.

Today the big city artists, instead of "small town" painters, continue to be pampered and favoured, because they are close to the promoters, the dealers, the publicists, and the buyers.

The stampede "to belong" and to have a Jackson or a Casson, among the big city autograph hunting illiterati of the Canadian art establishment, has left, in the dust, an appreciation of a whole host of really top notch Canadian artists, of whom Fanny Colwill Calvert is one of the very best.

We hope this page helps to change that, and bring honour and recognition to a really terrific Canadian original - personality and artist.

Hers is the heart-warming story of a single mother in a far-away country, who, in spite of every adversity, picked up her brood, braved the stormy Atlantic, chancing all to a strange land, and through incessant and diligent application, helped to invigorate and transform a small Canadian community, and thereby enrich the nation.

Canada, and Canadians, owe a lot to fearless, trail-blazing, and talented women like Fanny Colwill Calvert.