Monday 11 June 2012

Santa Monica

In the late summer of 1928, Bertha travelled to Santa Monica, California, to paint. Her brother John and his family, who lived there, had visited their Toronto relatives early that summer. Bertha decided to return to California with them in July, by car. The route took them through Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming, as evidenced by few faint pencil sketches, labelled, and by postcards Bertha mailed home from Sioux City, Iowa.

While she was in California, and in the years following her return to Toronto, she painted a collection of seaside pictures that are truly extraordinary. The bright California light, the vibrant colours, and the movement of the water combined to inspire delightful vignettes of seashore leisure. As always, she was especially attracted by the opportunity to paint children at play. She captured their unselfconscious pleasure with great sensitivity and deep affection.

(Possibly) Lindsay and Douglas Ingle
There were promising contacts and commissions for Bertha in California, but sorrow struck hard. In October 1928, her beloved brother John died suddenly, possibly from appendicitis. Just three weeks later, news came of a steep decline in her mother's health, back home. She returned to Toronto by train, and was present at Mary's death, in November. Three months later, her brother Roy's wife also died of appendicitis.

Bertha cared for her father, Robert, for many years, after Mary died. He suffered a stroke in 1933. When he accompanied Bertha on another visit to California in 1936, it appears to have done him some good. But another stroke in 1937 led to his eventual death in 1941.

Despite her sacrifice, pain, and grief in those years, she left us wonderful paintings that celebrate the joys of life.  

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