Tuesday, 22 May 2012

British Columbia

Bertha's father, Robert Ingle, became an employee of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) in 1898. At first, his employment required being away from home for long periods, a circumstance that likely provided part of the impetus for his wife Mary to move the family to Toronto in about 1901.

Bertha's younger brother John followed his father into the CPR, eventually becoming Station Master at Tappen, a picturesque mountainous spot near Salmon Arm in the interior plateau of British Columbia (BC). Bertha and her mother travelled to Tappen in 1914 to visit him, and Bertha stayed in BC well into the autumn to sketch and paint. It was the first of several visits she made to BC over the ensuing 20 years.


Bertha, John, and Mary Ingle (left to right) at Tappen BC, 1914

She loved the mountain landscapes, and found life there exhilarating, even when she found herself in somewhat primitive conditions. Despite her lameness, she enjoyed being outdoors. She took pride in physical activity and accomplishments, including an all-day hike to the summit of a mountain, nine thousand feet above sea level. "How I enjoyed that day," she wrote afterwards. "I am sure nature intended me for an outdoor life."




As with her visit to Québec, her artist's eye and sensibility responded to the change of ambience. Light and colour were, as always, the touchstones of her experience.


The pictures shown here represent a good example, on a small scale, of a much larger challenge that faces us, as we survey our vast inheritance. Bertha rarely dated any of her artworks. As with many others, the BC pictures are difficult to arrange chronologically. We would very much like to be able, eventually, to shed some light on this question.

To do so, we would like to understand more about the specific techniques she used, and how they developed over time. We've already noticed that her preferred choices of colour palette seem to have evolved in patterns, which may allow us to to group various works by period. There are other potential clues. The evolution of stylistic details; possible influences of other artists; the age and type of the material on which the works are executed; and (occasionally) references in her notes or letters are all possible indications of chronology. Perhaps, as we often think, such matters would make an interesting investigation for a budding student of art history. We're asking around.

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