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Annora Brown: pioneer interpreter of the western Canadian landscape

Fort Macleod artist Annora Brown.

Fort Macleod artist Annora Brown.

“By the 1930s artists were capturing scenes from many Canadian landscapes,” Annora Brown wrote from the Ontario College of Art. “Their canvases depicted Quebec, Ontario, outpost Winnipeg and a strip of the West Coast.”
But her own prairie region “was as little known as the Antarctic landscape!”
She resolved to change that omission, though I’m certain she didn’t anticipate her studio and gallery would be the home of her ailing parents in Fort Macleod.
However, from that centre her paintings and writings were proudly distributed to individuals and galleries across Canada (and beyond).
The distributing of these work-pieces took grit and determination and the help of colleagues and admirers.
Fort Macleod was not the easiest place to work from in the 1930s and ’40s.
There was no opportunity to display in local institutions or have her work discussed in art publications.
Nor were there any commercial galleries close at hand.
Besides, she was a woman — single at that! The male-dominated Calgary art community started to acknowledge her work only when the Alberta government insisted they have a woman member if they wanted to form an Alberta Society of Art.
Annora was chosen as their token woman, but she didn’t let that deter her. Her mother had taught her to look for what was right before her eyes.
In 1960 columnist Ken Liddell tipped his hat to her pioneer interpretation of this unique landscape. Her work included symbols of the West such as barbed wire, elevators and even the tragic dust storms of the ’30s.
Also she was one of the first to capture the lifestyle and customs of the Blackfoot culture. Meanwhile, her expertise as a wildflower painter was and is without equal.
When she left Fort Macleod in 1965 to move to Sydney, B.C., Liddell noted, “Alberta has lost another talented individual of a group so scattered they could never form a colony, and so individualistic they never would want to anyway.”
(A showing of Annora Brown’s work will be presented at the Falls Theatre in Waterton on Sunday, June 19 from 7-9 p.m. as part of the Waterton Wildflower Festival.)
GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR – JOYCE SASSE

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