Art & Artists in Exhibition: Vancouver 1890 - 1950
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Bessie Adelaide Fry (Miss)
(Mrs. Bessie Fry Symons)

December 24 1884 - January 26 1976

Edmonton Art Club (Life Member)
Island Arts and Crafts Society
B.C. Society of Fine Arts (Member 1928 - 1967)
Vancouver Sketch Club
Federation of Canadian Artists (Founding Member 1941)
Vancouver Arts and Letters Club

(Editor's note: a number of sources give Fry's first name as "Beatrice" (Ainslie, Macdonald, McMann) although I was advised that all references to that name are simply perpetuating an earlier mistake. I reviewed all original exhibition catalogues and other references to Fry, and the name Beatrice is never used. Interestingly, Artists in Canada has two different listings for Fry, one under Beatrice and one under Bessie.)

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.

Fry exhibited in the 1920 Annual Exhibition of the B.C. Society of Fine Arts, held at the Vancouver School Board offices on Hamilton Street. She subsequently showed work with the B.C. Society of Fine Arts in many of their annual exhibitions, including June 1927, May 1929, November 1929, 1936 to 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944 to 1947, 1949, 1951, 1952, 1954 to 1958, and in 1967.

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.

(Editor's note: Frank Spenlove-Spenlove (1868-1933) was a British figure and landscape painter who "studied in London, Paris, and Antwerp. Founder & principal of Spenlove School of Painting (The Yellow Door Studio) from 1896. RBA 1895." From: The Dictionary of British Artists 1880 - 1940, 1976, The Antique Collectors' Club.)

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 lived in Wadsley, B.C., and in New Westminster, B.C., as well as on Read Island near Campbell River. In 1960 an article titled "No Sunday Painters Here" was published in the Vancouver Sun in connection with the 50th Anniversary exhibition of the BCSFA, and was mostly a biography of Fry.

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
Mountain Solitude
Winter Evening
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
April Evening
Under the Cedars
The Straits of Georgia
Spring Study
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
Early Morning
Deep Pool
1930 Aug. 6 - 16 VanExh   Oil Paintings & Water-colours Winter Night
The Little Clearing
Early Morning
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
The Gateway
Young Tulips
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
October Study
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
Summer Evening
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
Coast Study
Rocky Mountain Trail
Coast, Early Autumn
1941 May 10 - June 1 BCSFA   31st Annual Moss Mountain Trail
Quiet Beach
Mt. Robson
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
Granite Bay
Logging Camp
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
Fisherman's Home
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

References - MONOGRAPHS

Refer to BIBLIO.



      1985; by Patricia Ainslie, Glenbow Museum, Calgary Alberta.
      Includes biography and illustrations of works in exhibition


References - GENERAL


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


(refer to RCA81)


      4 references cited for Fry.




"B.A. Fry and Margaret Lougheed also have striking examples in the same line."
      From "B.C. Society of Fine Arts" by Bernard McEvoy
      Vancouver Daily Province, April 28 1928

"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 ... (continues)
      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, Bess Symons, 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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