The Case of Local Artists

By T.W. Fripp, B.C.A.

Western Woman's Weekly - July 29, 1922

As being a son of an artist, bred amongst artists and having spent a long studentship in some of the big art schools of Europe, may I say a few words concerning the B.C. Art Gallery, art and artists in B.C. Intelligent and instructive criticism should always be welcome. Mr. Radford knows what he is talking about in his notes, and tender criticisms on the paintings in the Art Gallery, and whilst agreeing with both Mr. Radford and "The Man in the Street," I think that there are pretty sound reasons why the local artists' work is not up to so high a standard as might be. A large portion of the work shown is by amateurs, much by others who have taken up other work in order to live. The paucity of professional work is due, in my opinion, - formed after a struggling existence as an artist for close on thirty years in this country, - to the fact that in B.C., and in a great measure I may include Canada, there is so little encouragement or appreciation of art in any form that any artist of high merit could not live by the sales of his work. Artists here cannot afford to paint Exhibition pictures merely to gratify the "Man in the Street," unless he and his thousands of the same ilk back up the artists by buying some of his work, or the said artist has a private income. There have been artists here of considerable ability, and there are artists still here whose works have been accepted in Europe, but are forced to take up other work here in order to keep alive. The sale of pictures here at the end of a year, all told, would not support one person in comfort.

Cheap reproductions, badly and inacurately "hand tinted." cheap prints and chromes sell well, whilst good work goes abegging. Ask any of the art dealers here if that is not a fact. And the fact that crowds are oftern seen looking in the windows of the few art stores proves nothing beyond curiousity - such people are usually on the wrong side of the window, and rarely enter to buy. Vancouver, with its big and growing population, boasting its wealth, and its scenic beauties, is more lacking in its artistic and aesthetic taste than any city in Europe of half its importance. With scarce an art school, no arts and crafts, and until recently no Art Gallery, how can one expect good art or any knowledge of art.

Wealth is here, experience and spacious homes are here, large gardens exclusively laid out but often lacking in taste and knowledge of the garden beautiful. Enter any of these stately homes - the furniture, carpets, etc., are expensive and often in fairly good taste - due perhaps to the fact that the owners have been wise enough to listen to their architects or have gone to a good firm for their goods. Let the "Man in the Street" then cast his eye on the walls and there he will find his answer, let him gaze at the - I cannot call them works of art that cover the castly panelling or wall paper, - there the owner has followed his or her own dictates and refused to go to an artist of repute or to an art dealer who has the interests of art in his mind. Truly he has also to live to and has to sell that which sells best. Thanks to the patriotic action of a few citizens who of late have taken an interest in art, and backed their opinions by buying good works, including work by local artists, there seems to be a slight but interesting interest in art. The Vancouver Exhibition is spending $400.00 in the purchase of paintings of merit. Each year the art section there has met with increased public interest. The B.C. Art League is working hard to educate and interest the masses, and there are signs of better times for the artist. At the present Art Gallery there are several very fine works, but I doubt if 50 of the 3,000 visitors stopped to look at them. It seems to reflect somewhat on the people of this great and prosperous province that almost every artist here has to take up some other work in order to live. There is a loud cry: "Buy B.C. Goods." Quite right, too, but give your local artists half a chance and pay him so that he can live on rather more than is paid the Chink who cooks yours meals and cleans out your offices, if you must give those jobs to them instead of to white girls and boys. The B.C. Art League, hampered in many ways, has done much, and its action is being endorsed by every organization that has the betterment of this city at heart. If every "Man in the Street" is sincere and really wants art here, let him lift a finger to help by becoming a member of the league, and give some of his spare cash towards encouraging the local artists and others. He may then some day in the near future see good local work and be proud of the fact that it is made in B.C. and due to his efforts.

This Art Gallery is not merely for the B.C. Art League. It is for the people of B.C. Your own gallery, for your pleasure and education. Some thanks are due to those very local artists that are derided by the "Man in the Street," who at personal expense and devotion of valuable time, have been instrumental after many years of untiring efforts in bringing about the existence of the Art Gallery. Hidden away in some of the homes are collections of very fine paintings, and etching and engravings, and other objects of art, brought here from Europe by their owners.

Let the Art Gallery be put on a sound financial basis, given proper protection, and many of the valuable works will be placed there for the public to see and study. Tag days are held for every possible object, but Art is long-suffering and shy, and likes not to stand at street corners to beg. Vancouver has a great future before it. Let her take her proper place in the world of art, music, and drama. Without which life would lose most of its hopes and pleasures and ideals. Vancouver is, as far as I know, the only city which enforces a tax in the form of a license of $25.00 a year on all artists who wish to live and work in the city. This law, like many others, is not fairly carried out, and only one or two of the unfortunate artists have been hunted up and forced to pay, whilst others in the same building have been allowed to practice uncharged. This can be due only to either unfair discrimination or incapacity on the part of the officials concerned. The debt should be on the other foot. This city owes much to the few artists here who have freely given their help to various Exhibitions got up to boost Vancouver.

There is "a silver lining in every cloud," in the fact that there exists besides the Art League, the B.C. Society of Artists (composed mainly of professional artists, which holds an exhibition every autumn), also the Vancouver Sketch Club, which holds monthly exhibitions and meets once or twice a week for sketching. There are the Night School Art classes during the winter. The efforts of these societies willl surely bear fruit in time and create a greater interest in art in Vancouver. If the rising generation has more refining influences provided by art, music, good literature, wholesome thoughts and higher ideals placed before them we won't have to fear that black death of Bolshevism and Socialism that destroys but builds not, and threatens the very heart of civilization.

Editor's note: The article is illustrated with a photograph of Fripp in his studio, posing in front of a painting of a mountain scene. The photograph is captioned: "Mr. T.W. Fripp, B.C.A. Who has been elected honorary secretary of the Fine Arts Section of the Vancouver Exhibition. He is also honorary president of the Vancouver Sketch Club."