Illustrated Vancouver Vol 34 – The Pioneering History of British Columbia


Souvenir Book of Eight Pictures depicting various phases in the Pioneering History of British Columbia.

This booklet above features reproductions of the oil paintings of John Innes, with text printed on onionskin paper written by the Native Sons of British Columbia historian Bruce Alistair McKelvie. Part of a commission by the Native Sons of British Columbia, Post # 2, these paintings were commissioned in 1922, completed in 1925, and a few years later, this booklet of photochrome reproductions was offered for the grand total of $25 (this would be more like $325 today!)

CORRECTION! I realize now, after closer examination, this was an attempt to raise funds for a series of poster reproductions of the paintings. According to the letter that originally accompanied this booklet, it was going to cost $25 for each set of colour (photochrome) reproductions, printed as 14 x 20? images on 22 x 28? paper. The sepia printed booklet shown here was the part of the promotional material that attempted to kickstart the project. As I have never seen these images in poster format, I can only presume the ambition failed.

These paintings were initially loaned to UBC, where they hung in the library of the university. Today, these eight paintings are part of the SFU art collection where all but two hang in the hall of art in the Quadrangle (number 6 and 7 listed below are in storage).

I had initially mentioned this series of paintings in a previous post, but as this booklet provides slightly different titles for each image, I will list them again in the order they appear in the book.

  1. Captain George Vancouver Meets Spaniards off Point Grey
  2. Hudson’s Bay Company Fur Brigade Passing Lake Okanagan
  3. Governor Douglas Takes Oath of Office at Fort Langley
  4. Overland Expedition on Way to Cariboo
  5. Simon Fraser Following the Great River to the Sea
  6. The Building of Fort Victoria
  7. Alexander Mackenzie Records his Great Achievement
  8. Discovery of Gold at Williams Creek, 1861

Captain George Vancouver Meets Spaniards off Point Grey by John Innes, with text by Bruce Alistair McKelvie.

I won’t show each and every one of these paintings here, as it will be much better to view them in full colour at SFU in Burnaby. Their scale is dramatic, and while the artistry does not measure up to the work of the old masters, they were filled with epic and historic aspirations. John Innes may not be the first name that comes to mind in the art history of Vancouver, but his work ought not to be forgotten. For more details on his life and work, Gary Sim provides a sample biographical page of John Innes here in his digital research of over 16,800 British Columbia artists.

One of my motivations for featuring this booklet was to clear the waters as I continue my hunt for some of the work of John Innes that followed the eight paintings listed above. Likely inspired by the Native Sons of British Columbia, David Spencer commissioned a series of murals for his a new wing in his department store. The Spencer’s murals were painted by John Innes and another famous British Columbia artist with whom Innes shared studio space, G.H. Southwell. Alas, the lack of documentation for these paintings concerns me, and I have not yet been able to track them down. If anyone recalls seeing these paintings anywhere, please let me know, and I hope to be able to document the results of my findings in an upcoming post!

ps: This article from the December, 1927 issue of the Beaver describes the presentation of these 8 Native Sons paintings to UBC on September 21, 1927.