William Percival (W.P.) Weston
ARCA BCSFA CGP RBA
1879 - 1967
oil on canvas, circa 1931
36 x 28 in 91.4 x 71.1 cm
Estimate: $70,000 - $90,000
Sold for: $87,750
Preview at: Heffel Vancouver
Acquired directly from the Artist
By descent to the present Private Collection, Vancouver
Sold sale of Fine Canadian Art, Heffel Fine Art Auction House, May 2, 2002, lot 9
Private Collection, USA
Margery Dallas, W.P. Weston, ARCA, CGP, BCSA, 1962, unpublished manuscript
Kit Lort, “Weston’s art is even better in context”, Monday Magazine, March 14 - 20, 1980
W.P. Weston, Heffel Gallery Limited, 1991, a similar 1933 canvas entitled Unvanquished, in the collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, reproduced page 16
The Art Association of Montreal, 49th Spring Exhibition, March 17 - April 17, 1932, catalogue #323
W.P. Weston arrived in Canada from London at the age of 30. Already an experienced artist, and with a steady job established as an art teacher in Vancouver, he was soon exhibiting and involved with the developing art scene. An important educator who taught many school children and generations of their teachers, Weston wrote The Teacher’s Manual of Drawing and Design and A Teacher’s Manual of Drawing, both of which were adopted as textbooks. A strong supporter of the British Columbia Society of Fine Arts, he served on its executive for seven years and exhibited with the Society from 1909 to 1967. However, his greatest legacy was his personal vision of the powerful raw landscape of British Columbia.
As Weston explored the natural landscape around Vancouver – he was a keen hiker and sailor – he very soon realized, as his contemporary Emily Carr had, that the landscape of British Columbia demanded a stronger, more vigorous approach. As he succinctly stated, “You couldn’t paint Vancouver harbour to look like the mouth of the Thames.” The vaporous misty effects and the pale palette of his British past were thrown over in favour of robust form, brilliant light and colour and panoramic views. From 1917 to 1926, Weston did field sketches, painted and experimented, and in the process, he stated, “I came a little closer to my own language of form and the expression of my own feeling for this coast region; its epic quality, its grandeur, its natural beauty.”
This epic quality was soon being expressed in paintings with a strong design sense and formality. One of Weston’s important subjects was that of singular, powerful trees – at whatever point of their life cycle, whether dead shells, old and gnarled or at the height of vigour – such as the towering tree in Forest Spires. Similar to the 1933 canvas in the collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery entitled Unvanquished, it is a heroic figure, seen from below as it stretches up into the sky. The strong rhythm of motion created by the patterning of the branches, the carved lines of the bark and the rings of clouds in the sky, together with the unusual upward vantage create a sensation of being overwhelmed by the grandeur of the tree and sky.
Such feeling for and devotion to the wilderness leads to comparisons with the work of the Group of Seven. Weston made it clear that he considered that he developed independently of the Group and claimed he had not seen their work until 1930. However, Frederick Varley had been in the Vancouver area since 1926, and it is hard to imagine that Weston was not aware of him. But a more direct influence came from Carr, who was both friend and advisor to Weston. He regularly visited her in the 1930s and was known to have asked her advice on occasion. Her presence can be noted in some of Weston’s small panels of deep forest subjects, and in the dappled and high, arching skies in works such as this. But whatever influences may have been present, Weston pursued his commitment to his personal vision of the landscape.
Weston created a body of work that had clarity, precision and power. He succeeded in his quest to depict the sometimes overwhelming grandeur of the West Coast. In Forest Spires, he embodied it in a single tree spiraling up into the heavens, capturing the wonder that we feel looking up into a mighty Douglas fir that may have already lived longer than our own life span, tossed and torn by the wind, but always enduring and growing.
Estimate: $70,000 - $90,000
All prices are in Canadian Dollars
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