Art and Framing Stores of Vancouver

The Great Fire of 1886 swept away most of the buildings in Vancouver, and a frenzy of building construction took place immediately afterwards. Within a few years a new Vancouver had risen from the ashes. Even at that early date, there were artists in Vancouver, and art and framing stores sprang up to serve their needs.

In 1889 the Vancouver Art Association was founded, and the following year the Association mounted the first significant exhibition of art ever held in Vancouver, held in the newly-built Lefevre Block (now demolished) on Hastings Street. There were an amazing number of paintings on display - a total of three hundred and thirty-eight according to the exhibition catalogue. The catalogue was professionally printed and extensive in scope. It listed all of the paintings in the show, and their owners, had pages of programmes for a wide range of festivities connected to the art show, and had numerous advertisements.

Two of these advertisements were for art and framing stores, both apparently well-established businesses only four years after the Great Fire. The two stores were Theo. R. Hardiman's Pioneer Art Gallery, and Bailey & Neelands Art & Stationery Store. Later in the 1890s The Art Emporium opened. As Vancouver grew in population, so did the number of artists who arrived here and started painting. This provided opportunity for other stores to open and prosper.

As art and framing shops still do today, the early stores also hosted exhibitions of artwork, thus becoming not just a source of supplies, but a place for artists to socialize and to see the work of other artists. Until the (current) Vancouver Art Gallery opened in 1931, there was no publicly supported gallery in which local artists could exhibit their work, although in the early 1920s the B.C. Art League opened a gallery they called the Vancouver Art Gallery in premises loaned to them by the Hudson's Bay Company. The gallery was open to artists to hold shows, but it wasn't a publicly funded gallery.

The local framing shops are almost inextricably connected to the art of early Vancouver - many hundreds or thousands of paintings remain encapsulated in their early framing jobs. In many cases the shops had stickers that were applied to the back of the completed frame. During my research into early art history, and in my collecting of some of those early works, I came to appreciate the history and meaning of the frames themselves - the labels, job numbers, scribbled measurements, and the later notations by different owners of the paintings through the years.

Editor's note: the galleries are listed alphabetically. The list is not considered complete and comprehensive, but is simply information that the Editor has compiled.

Alderson's Fine Arts

Alderson's originally took over from the Richmond Arts (see below) at 919 Robson Street in approximately 1955. By 1968 they had relocated to Park Royal shopping centre in West Vancouver. Refer also to Greater Vancouver Art Galleries. Image courtesy Yves Farges.

The Art Emporium

The Art Emporium opened in 1897, and a store of that name continues to operate in Vancouver. In 1916 and 1917 J.Y. Miller (see below) was listed as Proprietor of the Art Emporium, while living at 1161 Granville Street. In 1926 Mr. Harry Hood took over the store and operated it for many years. In 1929 the Emporium was at 1103 Robson Street.

The Art Emporium advertised in the exhibition catalogue of the First Annual Exhibition of the B.C. Society of Fine Arts in 1909:

     The Art Emporium
     Picture Framing in Artistic Styles
     901 - 905 Georgia St. Vancouver

A 1972 advertisement

Bailey & Neelands Art & Stationery Store

Bailey & Neelands advertised in the 1890 exhibition catalogue for the 1st Annual Exhibition of the Vancouver Art Association. The advertisement provided the following information:

     For Picture framing, Mouldings, Engravings, Books and Stationery
     Views of Vancouver, Oil Paintings of Local Scenery
     N.B. - We carry the finest assortment of Mouldings in B.C.
         and give special attention to framing and mounting pictures.
     176 Cordova Street, near Cambie Street, Vancouver, B.C.

Sidney Baker

Sidney Baker operated a picture and framing store at 510 Hornby Street, Vancouver, from at least 1940 to 1950. Henderson's Directory for 1940 gives her name as Sid Beatrice Baker, living at 2005 Comox Street as well as having the business on Hornby. The directory for 1945 gives her name as Sidney Constance Baker, living and working at the same addresses. In 1950 the business address was 510 Hornby Street. This stamp is on the back of a print titled "Grey Stragglers over Peggy's Cove," titled and signed on the matte "Hornyansky." Hornyansky did at least four aquatints of Vancouver, and died in 1965.

Bau-Xi Gallery

The Bau-Xi Gallery was founded at 555 Hamilton Street in Vancouver in the mid-1960s, per the crossed-out address on the 1969 framing label below.

The gallery moved to South Granville Street and has been successfully putting on exhibitions there since at least 1982. They expanded to Toronto as well, per the following label.

See also Bau-Xi Gallery Artist Catalogue.

The Bay

This stamp is from an artwork framed in 1975. I can't remember if the Hudson's Bay Company had a store in the Brighouse Mall in Richmond where we were living, or if this was framed at the Bay in downtown Vancouver.

Bell's Art Store

Bell's Art Store was listed in the City Directories in 1918-19, from 1921 to 1923, and in 1926.

J.C. Bishop

J.C. Bishop advertised in the exhibition catalogue of the First Annual Exhibition of the B.C. Society of Fine Arts in 1909:

     J.C. Bishop - Dealer in Works of Art
     A full line of artists' materials, modelling clay, Hasbutt's Plasticine, Lay Figures, etc.
     A large stock of Engravings, Etchings, Carbons, Nature Prints, Water Colors, Oils, etc.
     We Frame Pictures Correctly and in a Perfect Manner.
     J.C. Bishop 421 Granville Street.

By 1919 the store was known as Bishop & Christie, "The Kodak House."

Camera and Arts, Ltd.

Camera and Arts advertised in the The Paint Box in at least two different issues, with two different names (see also Eastman Kodak Stores Ltd.) Under the name of Camera and Arts they advertised the following:

     Artists' Colors, Brushes, Canvas, Whatman Papers, Pastels
     Picture Framing
     610 Granville Street, Vancouver. Phone Sey. 4845

The Clarke & Stuart Co. Limited

The Clarke & Stuart Co. advertised in the premier issue of School Days magazine in October 1919. They also advertised in the Provincial Normal School's 1918-1919 school annual, the store was at 320 Seymour Street.

The company later advertised in the art school's student annual The Paint Box, June 1927, page sixty. The store was at 550 Seymour Street by then, and the advertisement stated

     Water Colors - Brushes - Pencils - Drawing Boards
     Saucers - Charcoal - Crayons - Drawing Pads and Blocks
     The Clarke & Stuart Co. Limited
     Stationers, Printers, Artist Supplies
     550 Seymour Street - - - - Vancouver B.C.

They advertised again in the 1930 issue of The Paint Box, at the same address.

David Clifford Gallery

These two labels are undated, courtesy of the Burnaby Art Gallery. These are not related to David Clifford of Blackstone Press, Granville Island.

Continental Arts

This label is loose, and is not dated

De Vooght Galleries

Although this is a later framing label from the 1970s, it is interesting because the owner also is noted to have operated the Gallery of the Golden Key. This label is for a Ken Danby multi-colour serigraph dated 1970.

The Downstairs Gallery

This gallery is noted as being active in the late 1970s and early 1980s, although exact dates are not known.

Eastman Kodak Stores Ltd.

Eastman Kodak Stores Ltd. advertised in the June 1928 and the 1930 issues of The Paint Box, and in a different issue as Camera and Arts, Ltd.. Under the name of Eastman Kodak they advertised the following:

     Artists' Colors, Brushes, Canvas, Whatman Papers, Pastels
     Picture Framing
     610 Granville Street, Vancouver. Phone Sey. 4845

Equinox Gallery

The Equinox Gallery opened in 1971 at this address on Robson Street, and continues to operate in 2021 on Great Northern Way. Refer also to Greater Vancouver Art Galleries.

EROS Gallery

The EROS Gallery operated at 2233 Granville St. from around 1979 to 1982, dates are not confirmed.

The Frame Shop

A label on the back of a linocut print dated 1939 by Bessie Adelaide Fry contained the following information:
     The Frame Shop
     H.E. Lawson
     Telephone 1518
     326-6th St. - New Westminster

The following label is from a later date, with the shop at a different address on Sixth Street.

Alex Fraser Galleries

Alex Fraser moved to Vancouver from London, England, where he was "formerly of Bond Street." He and his wife Olive moved to 5677 Granville Street c1944, and in 1945 were selling "pictures" at that address, according to BC Directories for 1943-45. By 1948 they had a gallery at 5669 Granville St., which they kept until 1985, when they moved the gallery to West 41 Ave. In the mid-1990s they sold the gallery to Linda Lando.

A label on the back of an early watercolour by Edith Fanny Kirk, presumably framed in the 1940s or perhaps 1950s.

Theo. R. Hardiman's Pioneer Art Gallery

Theophilus Richard Hardiman arrived in Port Moody in 1886, two weeks before the first train arrived in Vancouver. He immediately opened Hardiman's Pioneer Art Gallery at 522 Cordova Street. For a while he also sold music from the store. By 1892 the store was located at 622-626 Cordova Street, one block west of the original location.

One of the first artists to show local artwork at the Pioneer Gallery was Tomhu Huron Roberts, who had arrived in Vancouver the year before.

Hardiman advertised in the 1890 exhibition catalogue for the 1st Annual Exhibition of the Vancouver Art Association. Hardiman also loaned a few paintings to the exhibition. The advertisement provided the following information:

     Theo. R. Hardiman
     Pioneer Art Gallery, 522 Cordova Street
     Opposite C.P.R. Station
     Carving, Gilding and Picture Framing
     Ten thousand feet of moulding to select from

     Representative for British Columbia of Art Union, of London. Patron Her Majesty Queen Victoria
     President Right Hon. Earl of Derby, K.G.
     Vice-Presidents: Right Hon. Viscount Hardinge; Right Hon. Lord Emly

     Will be on exhibition at the above gallery shortly
     The Times describing the scene in Westminster Abbey says: "A noble picture, around
     and above wherever the eye turns, a resplendent ten thousand, destined it may be to a record no
     less enduring in the world's annals than that of the army of Xenophon."


Hardiman held his "First Annual Art Show and Sale" at the gallery in July 1892, according to an article in the Vancouver Daily World, July 14 1892.

In 1891 Edward Brothers Photographers had a studio in the Pioneer Gallery. Artists also took up studio space in the venue.

Hughes Photo Studio

R.J. Hughes had a photo studio in Trail from 1922 to 1931. From 1932 to 1935 he operated The Hughes Studio in Vancouver at 2113 West 41st Avenue. His marketing slogan was "Secure the shadow ere the substance fades." This framing stamp is on the back of an early Maud Rees Sherman watercolour, and reads:
    Hughes Studio
    High Class Portraits and Picture Framing
    Expert Kodak Finishing
    2113 West 41st Ave. Phone KErr. 2878
    Vancouver, B.C.

A framing stamp from 1932-35

The Kensington Arts

The Kensington Arts store at 1056 Robson Street was operated by Percy James and his wife Myra. James was born in Ontario in 1875, and arrived in Vancouver in 1929 to open the store. The James also lived at that address. The store was in business there until 1950, at which time they were selling "pictures and china" according to the City Directory.

There is no Directory listing for Kensington Arts in 1951, but from 1952 to at least 1955 the store was at 4603 West 10th Avenue doing "pictures and framing." James died a widower in Vancouver in 1960. His death certificate noted that he had been an Art Dealer all of his life except for the final week, so he must have worked in this profession prior to arriving in BC.

An early framing label, courtesy Allan Collier

James Leyland's Fine Art Gallery

James Leyland's gallery advertised in The Paint Box, June 1926, page thirty-eight, and again in the June 1928 issue on page seventy-two. His gallery was at 609 Dunsmuir Street, and his advertisement claimed that it was "always worth a visit", that "Exhibitions are held from time to time", and that "We Frame Pictures As They Should Be Framed". He was also an artist.

He also advertised in the 1930 issue of The Paint Box, at the same address, with the saying "Let's See What LEYLAND Has in His Window!".

An early framing label

Malick Studios

This stamp is from an artwork framed in 1970.

Mido Framing Gallery

This is a fairly recent label, but undated. The gold foil background did not scan very well. Courtesy Burnaby Art Gallery.

J.Y. Miller

Joseph Y. Miller started to advertise himself as a Vancouver picture framer in 1913, according to BC directories. In 1913 he lived at the same address as his framing store at 1175 East 14th Avenue, Vancouver, but in 1914 he moved his residence to 1457 East 13th Ave. In 1915 he was back living at 1175 East 14th. In 1916 and 1917 he was listed as Proprietor of the Art Emporium (see above), while living at 1161 Granville Street. From 1917 to 1925 he again had his own business, listed as J.Y. Miller, "pictures, etc." He lived at 901 West Georgia Street from 1923 to 1925. After that neither he nor his business are listed in the directories.

Montgomery Fine Art Services

An undated loose label, courtesy of the Burnaby Art Gallery. The unpublished Greater Vancouver Art Gallery Timeline, Geography, & History 1954-2012 notes that Montgomery Fine Art was at 76 West Cordova Street in the early to mid-1990s.

Napier's Polychrome Art Shop

This is a scan of an advertisement for Napier's Polychrome Art Shop, that was published in The Paint Box in 1926.

Petley-Jones Gallery

The Petley-Jones Gallery was at the West 57th address from 1986 to 1988, then at 2235 Granville Street from 1988 to 2010 per label below; then to 1554 West 6th Ave. from 2010 to 2018; and to 2245 Granville Street in 2018.

Photo-Arts Limited

The Photo-Arts Limited advertised in The Call of the Coast, 1928. BC directories list the business at 573 Hornby Street, Vancouver, in 1932.

Pioneer Art Gallery - see Theo. R. Hardiman

The Richmond Arts Limited

The Richmond Arts Limited opened in 1917 at 923 Robson Street in Vancouver, where they remained until 1927. From 1928 to 1932 the store was at 787 Hornby Street, and from 1934 until at least 1955 they were at 919 Robson Street.

Richmond Arts advertised in The Paint Box, June 1926, page forty-two. F.W. Holliday and W.H. Manning were listed in the advertisement, the telephone number was Seymour 2939, the address at 923 Robson Street. Art supplies listed were "pictures, picture framing, artists materials, Kodaks, and china paints".

F.W. Holliday remained manager of the store until 1950. From 1951 onward Doug Alderson took over from him. In 1951 they were also listed at 868 Park Royal as well.

Richmond Arts advertised again in the June 1928 issue of The Paint Box, but this time the advertisement did not list Holliday or Manning. The same list of art supplies was given, but framed mirrors were additionally offered.

Richmond Arts advertised again in the 1930 issue of The Paint Box, their address now listed as 787 Hornby Street (at Robson), Phone. Sey.(mour) 2939. They now listed "etchings, mezzo tints, pictures, picture framing, artists' materials, china paints".

A 1933 prospectus-style flyer for the B.C. College of Arts noted that "enquiries to be mailed to F.H. Varley Studio c/o Richmond Arts, Hornby Street."

A Richmond Arts framing label on the back of an undated linocut print by Bessie Adelaide Fry dating from around 1951 had the additional name of Alderson Galleries Ltd., address 868 Park Royal, telephone number WEST 2233 on it. Richmond Arts was then at 919 Robson Street, telephone number MU 5425. The label advertised "Pictures", "Art Supplies", and "Picture Framing Specialists". Another variation on the label is shown below, where the West Vancouver gallery is not listed.

A third and probably later variation of the framing label below, actual size is 5/8" high x 2-5/8" wide.

David Spencer Ltd.

David Spencer built a large "department" store on Hastings Street in Vancouver, at one point expanding to occupy almost the entire city block where S.F.U. Harbourside is now situated.

A 1916 Spencer framing label.

1926 advertisement in The Paint Box

Framing label for Spencer's 1936 B.C. Artists' Golden Jubilee Exhibition
Courtesy West Vancouver Archives

The store also sold the work of local artists and artisans. Maud Sherman painted small watercolour / pen and ink greeting cards for the store in the 1930s, as well as carved and painted wood brooches depicting birds and animals.

The Spencer "Diamond S" logo.

Refer also to David Spencer Ltd. Department Stores.

Vancouver Art Gallery

Gallery framing label.

The Vancouver Art Gallery operated at 905 Granville Street in 1922 to 1923, per Directory listings. This gallery has no connection to the current Vancouver Art Gallery, which it preceded by almost a decade. The Gallery shared the space with N.G. Foster Wallpapers, who had occupied the address since 1915. Although the label names Bertram Charles Hersey (b England 1879, arr BC 1910, d Burnaby 1955) as the proprietor, the directories list Mrs. Bertram C. Hersey as proprietoress (also as Mrs. E.M. Hersey, born Edith Mills Scott).

Bertram's employment was variously listed in the directories as news stand clerk, news stand manager, second-hand goods dealer, antiques dealer, cabinetmaker, proprietor of Dunbar Carpet Cleaning, and finally retired as a furniture upholsterer in 1955. Hersey also moved his home a number of times, living at 1314 West 7th, 1942 West 8th, 1058 Pacific, 3563 Heather, 4294 Dunbar (all in Vancouver), and finally 6921 Jubilee Avenue in Burnaby after his retirement.

Vancouver Art Gallery

The current Vancouver Art Gallery opened in 1931 at 1145 West Georgia Street, and expanded in 1951 to 1155 West Georgia Street. Their first major exhibition was the 1932 All-Canadian Exhibition, followed by their first annual B.C. Artists' exhibition.

What remains of a framing label for the 1932 B.C. Artists' First Annual exhibition.
Courtesy West Vancouver Archives

Western Art Circle

A mid-1950s framing label for Amelia Carr (q.v.)

Woodward's Department Store

Woodward's logo c1930.

Woodward's logo (undated).