"I am 3/4ths Canadian, and one 4th New Englander - I had ancestors on both sides in the Revolutionary war." - Elizabeth Bishop

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

“Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop” Art Gallery: Background

Visual art was everywhere in Bishop’s Great Village childhood. In the parlour of her grandparents’ home hung family portraits, chromographs of the British royal family, and seascapes painted by George W. Hutchinson, Bishop’s great-uncle (her grandmother’s brother). George Hutchinson was trained at the Royal Academy in London and worked for many years as an illustrator (he was the first professional illustrator to depict the meeting between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Holmes’ mystery A Study in Scarlett). Bishop grew up hearing stories about George’s and his younger brothers’ travels around the world. Two of her most famous ekphrastic poems were inspired by Hutchinson paintings: “Large Bad Picture” and “Poem.”
(The “Large Bad Picture” painting. It is owned by
a Bulmer descendant who lives in the US.)

(The "Poem" painting. It was sold in 2011 
to one of Bishop's acquaintances.)
In the next generation, Bishop’s Aunt Maude also became a painter. In the 1901 Nova Scotia Census, Maude declared herself a professional artist. She took lessons with her uncle and his colleague Bertram Knight Eaton in 1898, when they set up a studio and spent a year teaching. Maude won prizes at local exhibitions for her large landscapes.
(Painting class, Great Village. They are seated on the bank of the
Great Village River. Bertram Knight Easton on far right.
Maude is seated on the far left.)
Maude Bulmer Shepherdson was the aunt who raised Bishop in the late 1910s and through the 1920s, in her home in Revere, Massachusetts. Bishop had vivid memories of going to the art galleries in nearby Boston with her aunt, who painted right to the end of her life.

While not a professional visual artist, Bishop enjoyed painting. She painted enough images for there to have been several posthumous exhibits of her work, including one in 1997 in Worcester, MA, coinciding with a Bishop conference. Exhibits have happened in Key West, Florida, and North Haven, Maine. A major exhibit took place at the Tybor de Nagy Gallery in New York City late in 2011.
(This appears to be Bishop’s only painting of Nova Scotia. 
It is owned by Frani Blough Muser.)
Today, Bishop’s life and work have inspired visual artists around the world, not least of whom are a number of Nova Scotians. Over the years, the EBSNS has worked with the children of the Great Village School to create and exhibit artwork inspired by Bishop’s poems. One of the Elizabeth Bishop Centenary legacy projects was a competition among young people in the Great Village area to create an image for a permanent banner to hang in the village each summer. April Sharpe’s striking image of St. James Church was chosen.
With all this visual art in the picture, so to speak, it was logical for the Exhibit Committee to include a small art gallery with the exhibit project, which we are calling “Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop.”

The next series of posts will profile the various artists who will participate in the inaugural exhibition in the gallery.

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