BRITISH COLUMBIA ARTISTS  

ABOUT THE PROJECT



The watercolour of Mace Point that got me started.


BRITISH COLUMBIA ARTISTS (BC ARTISTS) is an extensive web-based bibliographic finding aid to reference information on more than 20,000 visual artists who worked or are working in British Columbia, from the 1700s to the present day. Information has been compiled from thousands of documents and other sources, including exhibition catalogues, books, prospectii, newspaper reviews, archival records, vital statistics, personal correspondence and interviews, websites, photographs, and artist statements. The information is presented in over 4,000 web pages, with 1,800 biographies and 1,270 images, all extensively hyperlinked from the main ALPHABETICAL INDEX. The project will run on any device with a web browser (computer, laptop, tablet, cell phone) regardless of operating system or browser.

What kind of visual art is included? Typical art forms include painting (oil, acrylic, watercolour, gouache, etc.); drawing (pen, pencil, charcoal, pastel, etc.); printing (relief, woodblock, etching, monoprint, serigraph, digital, etc.); still photography (colour, b&w, film, digital); collage; weaving & tapestries; mosaic in glass, tile or other materials; and sculpture or sculptural assemblies in wood, metal, stone, clay, glass, or other materials. Less commonly referenced visual art forms are video, film photography, animation, and performance art.

A few quick technical notes:
1. No font is declared in the html, your browser's selected font is what you will see.
2. No background colour or image is declared, you will see what your browser is set to show.
3. All pages will fit to page when printed.
4. Only tables and assorted text formatting (bold, italics, underline, header, center, etc.) are used in this project.
5. Almost all images are hyperlinked to a web page with information about the image, just click on an image.
6. "Live" web page addresses which are not in this project are listed as text only. Cut and paste into your browser to visit.

The creation of the project essentially began in 1994 when I (the Editor) purchased a watercolour painting by artist Maud Rees Sherman. I began to do research into who she was, and where the scene in the artwork was painted. I had no idea that over a quarter of a century later I would still be doing research! I found out that Maud was born in Mission City in 1900, and died in North Vancouver in 1976. She had a long and distinguished career as a Vancouver artist, exhibiting her work for more than 40 years. The painting was identified as a view of Mace Point on Savary Island, and I eventually went there and stood on the same spot. Maud's father Ruiter Stinson Sherman had helped develop the island as a tourist and summer cottage get-away around 1910, and the family spent many summers on the island.

At some point around 1996 I decided that it would be a good idea to do a survey of other artists in Vancouver around the same time period, so that I could gauge Maud Sherman's standing amongst them. I had spent a lot of time trying to find more of her artwork, but without success. And so, the first major digression began. I started by listing the artists in a card file at the Vancouver Art Gallery Library. The card file listed all artists who had exhibited artwork in the exhibitions of the BC Society of Fine Arts and the VAG BC Artists exhibitions. That list became the original list of artists exhibiting in Vancouver prior to 1950. Eventually, I created a biographical file for every artist, listing all of the artworks they had shown in all of those exhibitions. These were accompanied by complete transcriptions of all of the exhibition catalogues. Note: only artists exhibiting prior to 1950 have BC ARTIST biography files.

I had spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out an efficient way to present all of the information. I decided that a web site would be the way to go, and worked out a format that would include all of the major types of information: artist names, exhibition information, information about the organizations who put on exhibitions and ran galleries, newspaper articles and reviews, and publications about art and artists. I wrote a few test web pages starting in December 2002, worked out the kinks, and then started adding files and information. The project expanded rapidly, since I had years of research information already at hand. At this point I was only listing artists who had exhibited work in Vancouver between 1890 and 1950. Each of them had a biography file started when I listed at least one of their artworks in an exhibition. All others were listed in the A to Z index.

In 2007 I began to add images. In 2012 I expanded the original scope of work to include all visual artists who had exhibited work in British Columbia, from the 1700s to the current day. This greatly expanded the number of artists in the index. All of them were added to the A to Z index, with links to exhibitions, publications, and vital statistics. I confess that doing a lot of web page coding and programming is rather boring at times. What kept me going was all of the exciting art history that I was digging up and putting together. I met many interesting people during my research who were helpful and also important in their own way. I developed a cross-country research network of friends who liked to share information. And I kept "looking for Maud" as a parallel research project.


A page from the Savary Pudding.

An old neighbour of the Sherman family, Mrs. Joan Dendys, gave me a large collection of Maud's original artwork and correspondence. Galleries, curators, and publishers began to donate their publications and exhibition catalogues to me. Maud's original 1907-1915 diary was gifted to me by someone I didn't know but who had found my website. The Savary Pudding (since donated to U. Victoria) came my way, as did the R.S. Alexander collection (since donated to Emily Carr University) and a number of signed copies of books from the Sherman family library. A slowly increasing number of people have contacted me after finding an artist listed on my website, and each person has helped add new information to the project.


Books from the Sherman family library.

Of course, things got a little out of hand. I really didn't have room for thousands of publications, and the expenses kept adding up. I began to donate parts of my collection to places like the Library at the National Galley of Canada and to Special Collections at Simon Fraser University. It seemed that the more I gave, the more I got back. I started selling copies of the project around 2003, and eventually placed about 75 copies. In 2019, after my retirement from a career in architecture, I decided to give up selling the project, and uploaded it to my website for free public access. With much more time on my hands, I also completed transcribing a number of exhibition catalogues and finishing some other items on my "to-do" list for the project. Having completed most of the items that I planned to do, and a lot that I hadn't planned to do, it is perhaps time to finish "Looking For Maud."


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