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Tom Fripp was born in London on 23rd March, 1864, the twelfth child of George Arthur Fripp, R.W.S., and a nephew of Alfred D. Fripp, both water-colour painters of distinction, whose works are much prized today in museums, art galleries and private collections.
So many of Tom Fripp's relations showed such a marked ability for painting that it is not surprising that he should have inherited great talent and an appreciation of all that is beautiful, and with it an uncontrollable desire to place on record with palette and brush the scenery that he saw with an artist's eye.
He revelled in the British Columbia mountains and the open air, and he was never happier than when portraying the glories of the rocks and snow, the woodlands and streams of the land he loved, and he did not stoop to prostitute his art by duplicating his most popular pictures. His sketch books, draught designs and records are models of neatness and method.
After spending some time travelling and studing in Italy and Switzerland, he worked under his father, and for two years was a student at the Royal Academy Art School before coming to British Columbia in 1893 and settling at Hatzic as a farmer, but an accident prevented him following the latter vocation for long, and art, which he had once pursued as a hobby, became his profession, and, for many years, he has been the most outstanding water-colour artist in Western Canada.
His style is modelled on his father's, and the son's pictures are not unworthy to be hung beside the sire's. Learning in such a school of sound draughtsmanship, it is not surprising that he had little patience with the cranks and posers whose -isms and -ists were often the shafts for his good-natured wit.
For many years Fripp had struggled against persistent ill-health with a courage that was the admiration of his many friends. Nothing could destroy his imperturbable good humour and nothing gave him greater pleasure than to discuss the art of painting with his friends, which he did with a fund of anecdote and whimsical nonsense that would keep his listeners in continual chuckles quite oblivious of the passage of time.
Two years ago when a visitor from New Zealand, a keen art collector, was passing through Vancouver, we spent an afternoon in Tom Fripp's studio, and the connoisseur took away three of Fripp's paintings and later wrote to say how much he valued these additions to his collection. Fripp's reply was characteristic: "It is always nice to learn," he wrote, "that one's work is bought for the reason that it satisfies an aesthetic desire rather than for the purpose of filling a space on the house wall at so much a foot - which does occur at times! In some cases I feel that whilst selling a picture I have also made a friend, and this is a case in point." Tom Fripp had a genius for making friends.
Only a few weeks ago I went round to see him and spent an afternoon in his studio. It was a bright spring day, the sun came pouring in through the windows overlooking English Bay, and Fripp, though he was far from well, was in the brightest humour, and together we talked of old times, pored over his portfolios, and he mentioned with some pride and pleasure that two of his paintings had just been bought from the National Gallery in Ottawa, and he had every hope that he would be represented in the new gallery here in his home town, and, as I walked away with a characteristic rock study of Mount Robson under my arm, his cheery voice came echoing down the corridor bidding me come again.
It had been a joyous afternoon and typical of how Tom, in spite of his troubles, always looked on life - with a laugh on his lips.
Lately he had experimented with charcoal, and some of his studies in this medium are very soft and satisfying, delightfully alive.
The Vancouver Museum is fortunate in having two specimens of his work in water-colour, and, though I prefer many of his other works to those we have, these two are outstanding in our rather modest collection.
Ars longa, vita brevis - Tom Fripp has passed on, but he has left behind a host of friends who will long remember his genial personality and who have a permanent memento of this brave heart in his delightful works that hang upon their walls.