Peter Whyte & Catharine Robb Whyte
JUNE 29 – OCTOBER 16, 2022
The exhibition delves into the artistic practice of Peter Whyte and Catharine Robb Whyte whose love of the outdoors provided endless possibilities to paint a variety of subjects all within close proximity to their Bow River log home.
The Whyte’s personal artistic styles were influenced in part by Peter’s earlier awareness of artists Belmore Browne and Aldro T. Hibbard; Catharine’s family philanthropic artistic connections, and the education they both received at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. During their tenure, the customary 19th and early 20th century academic instruction required students to “paint what they saw” along with prescribed artistic rules. The training was in-depth, requiring discipline, patience and stamina. These qualities proved useful when confronted by the enormity of the mountain vistas, the rapidly changing light, and frequent changing climatic conditions.
Together and often painting in close proximity to each other, Peter and Catharine produced hundreds of 8” x 10” oil sketches with many functioning as colour notes for larger canvases. Depending on the weather patterns of the day, these small works were completed within a time frame of twenty minutes to two hours.
As well as small sketches, Peter completed large scale studio works. However, Catharine’s only large canvas #19 titled Larches is relatively small in comparison. Equally as gifted a painter as her husband, one can only speculate that her wifely duties, disciplined correspondence, and endearing desire to promote Peter kept her occupied. Indeed, once the new upstairs home studio was completed in 1939 with a distant proximity her office and the kitchen, Catharine did not attempt large scale canvases.
Of interest are the frames on the small paintings which are replications of Peter Whyte’s hand carved one adorning canvas #40 titled Bow Lake. It was an early practice for artists to construct and decorate their own frames and a skill Peter learned from artist Aldro T. Hibbard, who was both a visitor to Banff in 1925 and 1926 as well as an alumni of the School of the Museum of Fine Art, Boston. The small speckled replicas were made by master framer Jarvis Hall of Norberg Hall Art Gallery, Calgary.
In a 1979 interview for Canadian Collector Magazine with Joan Murray, Catharine recalled: “My husband was quite influenced by Belmore Browne (1880-1954) and Carl Rungius (1869-1959). We both were a bit. There was quite a group of us in Banff: Belmore Browne, Charlie Beil, Nick de Grandmaison, Walter Phillips. And so many visiting artists too: Fred Brigden, A.C. Leighton, Charlie Comfort, H.G. Glyde, George Pepper, Kay Pepper were all here at one time or another, either painting or teaching at the BSFA. Of course we also knew J.E.H. MacDonald, Lawren Harris, Arthur Lismer, and A.Y. Jackson…”
Available in our shop is Artistry Revealed: Peter Whyte, Catharine Robb Whyte and Their Contemporaries which provides an in-depth understanding of their artistic careers.
Image: Catharine Robb Whyte, O.C. (1906 - 1979, CANADIAN), Mount Temple from Saddleback, Oil on canvas, 22.8x28.0 cm, WyC.01.191