Christine Roome writes about her experience of viewing E.J. Hughes paintings, her connection to Vancouver Island and how the work of an artist can give one a sense of home.
I grew up surrounded by art and artists. Every Fall, I volunteered along with the rest of my family with the Bragg Creek Artisans at their annual arts and crafts sale. The atmosphere was energetic, creative and fun. We ran a soup kitchen and set up exhibits of art from the really down-home craft variety to spectacular pottery, wonderful jewellery and very fine paintings. So, while I’m certainly no art critic, I was raised to appreciate and value art for what it is. Something that is beautiful and emotive. Something that grounds and gives pleasure.
I have an amazing job that connects me with very interesting people and through them my world view is expanded. Yesterday, I met one such person. I travelled with two colleagues to Vancouver to visit a man who has a very significant collection of E.J. Hughes paintings. I have always loved E.J. Hughes, but after seeing so many original works of art painted by this wonderful B.C. artist, I left feeling lightened and devoted.
Edward John Hughes was born in North Vancouver, British Columbia, spent a significant part of his childhood in Nanaimo, British Columbia and later resided in Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island. He was a painter who did not travel far and wide for his inspiration. Rather, he painted scenes and landscapes that surrounded his home – Shawnigan Lake, Cowichan Valley, Ladysmith, Nanaimo, Chemainus and Maple Bay to name a few. He graduated from the Vancouver School of Applied Art and Design in 1933, where he studied under Group of Seven artist Frederick Varley. And, in 1939, he joined the military and spent six years as an official war artist.
Hughes’ paintings bring me home. While, I was born and raised in Alberta – I’ve always felt drawn to Vancouver Island. My mother was born in Victoria and raised in Chemainus and perhaps it is no coincidence that my husband was born in Trail, BC and raised in the Cowichan Valley. My husband’s family started the Maple Bay Yacht club – his ‘Aunt’ Susie Napier was 11 years old in 1925 when the club was formed. Her family owned the property on the point with the huge and dynamic rock known as Paddy’s Milestone.
I first met my husband’s family when we went to Paddy’s Point at Maple Bay to watch the Christmas sail past. I made my future father-in-law a stilton dip and my future sister-in-law approved of me immediately. We stood on the tip of Paddy’s Point roasting timbits over an open fire. It was here that I met my future mother-in-law, who was busy organizing food and taking care of us all. And, of course, it was here that I met Susie who showed me her fabulous scrapbooks from World War II and told me the stories of her Rosie the riveter life in Victoria. It was here, on this night, that I fell in love with my husband, saw his family as my own and saw our future together. After this night, the landscape around this area in Mill Bay, Cobble Hill and Maple Bay became part of my home coming.
As I stood in front of the original E.J. Hughes paintings depicting Maple Bay I felt happy, light, connected and at home. Hughes’ paintings have a very strong appeal, the landscape and seascape portrayals are intimate and, for me, evoke memory. The ‘Point’ as everyone referred to it is no longer in our family. A great loss and heart break to more than a few of us.
Artist, Jack Shadbolt, described Hughes as “the most engaging intuitive painter of the BC landscape since Emily Carr.” While I have great appreciation for Emily Carr as an artist and a writer, it is the work of Hughes that really speaks to me. On our return trip across from Vancouver to Victoria, I looked out the window of the Ferry and saw E.J. Hughes paintings. There is power and resonance in the work of an artist which manages to impress upon ones subconscious the image and representation that he has created of the landscape. Four years after his death, I see his paintings in parts of the west coast that he never even painted.
More E.J. Hughes Paintings
The author wishes to express gratitude to E.J. Hughes for painting and to J.B. for sharing his prized collection.
This post is dedicated to everyone in my extended family.
Images of E.J. Hughes paintings from E.J. Hughes
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