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Fort Macleod’s Annora Brown was artist, preservationist

Contributor, Joyce Sasse

annora brown

Annora Brown at work in her beloved southern Alberta.

Annora Brown was a proud daughter of Fort Macleod, who lived here from 1900-1967. She was a pioneer artist, writer, botanist and conservationist. Her turf was the region drained by the Waterton and the Oldman rivers. Massive numbers of settlers had invaded southwestern Alberta in the first third of the 19th century. This was followed by a time of extreme drought and financial depression known as “The Dirty Thirties.” By 1930 Annora Brown began her fight to capture the essence of a culture and countryside under siege. In doing this she created the first visual record of the Western Canadian landscape. She respected the Blackfoot culture, made record of their ceremonials and designs and painted their likenesses. She championed the preservation of the natural flora and fauna when most people thought only about taming the country and getting rid of the “weeds.” Her success is evident when we now realize 50 of Canada’s rarest wild flower species are found in the region (30 of these being exclusively from this area). Annora Brown admired the intellect and ability of the women in the region, was herself strengthened by their fortitude and championed their rights. The Fortnightly Club, a literary and cultural club began in the time of her mother, and the Sketch Club, started by herself, still meet regularly. With perseverance, this woman from a prairie outpost gained recognition. She was the first woman invited to join the fledgling Alberta Society of Artists. She received a commission from the Glenbow Museum to create 200 paintings of wildflowers in the region — a legacy that will soon be digitized for public viewing. Her prolific work is found in numerous private homes, offices and public places through Alberta, and can be seen in galleries in Montreal, Ottawa, Ontario as well as Alberta, U.S., UK and Australia. She received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Lethbridge in 1971. Annora Brown wrote and illustrated “Old Man’s Garden,” a blend of legend, history, botany, anecdote and sketches of 256 plants from the area. “Sketches From Life” reveals her story of how compelled she felt to listen for the ways each subject she painted spoke to her. While both these books are out of print at the present time, cameos of her life and work can be found at www.fortmacleodgazette.com. For a description of the ongoing Annora Brown Life and legacy Project, visit www.annorabrown.ca

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