Friday, October 14, 2016

Things Are Getting Stormy - Frederick Varley Focus

Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay by Frederick Varley, 1921. Oil on canvas.
Sourced from The Art History Archive

Time to bunker down this weekend! As we prep ourselves for a few blustery days ahead, we figured it was apt to feature a Canadian artist most known for his fiercely passionate paintings and equally stormy life story: Frederick Horsman Varley.

 Frederick Varley
Sourced from Wikipedia

Hailing in from Sheffield, Varley lead an adventurous and tumultuous life. Originally born in Sheffield, England (1881), he studied art in Sheffield and in Belgium (at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts), where he met his wife. After being convinced by a friend to, he moved to Ontario at the age of 31, and began working at the ad agency Grip Ltd as a commercial illustrator.

Varley was quickly known for his mercurial temperament and unconventional approaches to his work. While he was friends with several artists, he was closest with artists Tom Thomson and Frank Carmichael. With Tom, Varley would hike to the wilderness to paint, although Varley preferred portraiture.

In 1918, Varley was commissioned to paint scenes of War World I, mostly of battlefields and cemeteries. The experience left Varley deeply disturbed, and his works echo with its haunt.

 German prisoners on the Western Front. 1918-1920. Oil on canvas.
Sourced from Wikipedia

In 1926, Varley eventually moved to Vancouver to teach at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts, where he focused on landscapes, predominantly in oil and watercolor, having been inspired by its natural scenery. When the Depression hit in 1936, Varley left the province to circulate from Ottawa and Montreal, before finally settling in Toronto. In 1938, he once again packed his bags and adventured to the Arctic, and once more in 1954 to the Soviet Union. After returning to Toronto, he passed in 1969.


Frederick Varley belonged to the Group of Seven, an organization of Canadian landscape painters from 1920 to 1933. Their objective was to paint the landscapes of Canada, which had not been considered worth of depicting at that time. While we do not carry works of the Group of Seven, we have many other beautiful Canadian landscape artists featured on our website here.

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