Artwork by James Henderson,  Qu’Appelle Valley

James Henderson
Qu’Appelle Valley

oil on panel
9 x 12 ins ( 22.9 x 30.5 cms )

Sold for $3,680.00
Sale date: March 1st 2013

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James Henderson
(1871 - 1951)

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, the son of a sea captain, he was apprenticed to a lithographing firm at the age of 16 where he worked until he was 23. During this period he attended evening classes at the Glasgow School of Art. About 1894, when he had finished his apprenticeship, he went to London, England, where he worked at commercial designing and later at theatrical poster work. On the weekends he went sketching in the country and parks or visited galleries.

He was married in Glasgow in 1900 and by 1909 was in Winnipeg with his wife where he worked as a lithographic artist. From there they moved to Regina where he worked as a commercial artist and painted portraits of notables of that city including Mayor Robert Martin, Hon. Hugh Richardson (judge presiding at the trial of Louis Riel, regional patriot of the Metis), Mr. Justice Brown and others, but neither commercial art work or portraits were in great demand at that time in Regina.

He visited Qu'Appelle Valley several times and in 1915 the Hendersons made their permanent home at Fort Qu'Appelle. The Qu'Appelle Valley is about a mile in width and approximately 200 to 300 feet in depth and is wooded and etched by streams and lakes. Located near there are the Indigenous reserves of the Crees, Sioux, Saulteaux and Assiniboines. Henderson became deeply interested in the Indigenous People and mutual trust grew between them. Although the Indigenous People were adverse to being photographed and painted by outsiders, they allowed Henderson to paint their portraits. Arthur Hayworth related in the “Saskatchewan History” as follows, “He painted the hunters and fighters, and also the older men, with wisdom, or cynicism, or tragedy in their faces. He portrayed the calm patience, the strength, the stoicism which characterize their race. He travelled to reserves in Alberta as well as Saskatchewan to find subjects...Painting his subjects in tribal costume, he was meticulous in his attention to correctness of detail, a fact attested to by those in the best position to judge. He has given us a record of [Indigenous] appearance and character which has an important place in western history.” Henderson's Indigenous portraits wee soon in demand by collectors. His portrait of Chief Shot-In-Both-Sides was hung at the annual exhibition of the National Gallery of Canada in 1928 and was acquired by the National Gallery the same year. The Sioux at Fort Qu'Appelle's Standing Buffalo Reserve recognized him by naming him an honourary chief, giving him the name Wicite Owapi Wicasa or “Man Who Paints Old Men".

Henderson also excelled at landscape painting not dramatically so, but in the honest presentation of the quiet beuty he found in the Qu'Appelle Valley. He also painted scenes of the Rockey Mountains on his visit there in 1926 and he visited elsewhere but for the most part, the Qu'Appelle Valley remained his main subject for landscapes.

The Local Council of Women of Calgary began to exhibit his work in 1923 and in 1936 presented 80 of his paintings at the Regina College. The exhibition was opened by Premier W.J. Patterson in the attendance of 300 guests. Throughout Henderson's career he participated in a number of group shows. He died in Regina at the age of 79 and was buried at Fort Qu'Appelle. A memorial exhibition of 26 of his paintings was held at the Tower Room of the Regina College shortly after his death.

Collectors of his paintings include: The National Gallery of Canada; The Norman MacKenzie gallery; Public Library of Calgary; Court House, Regina; Saskatchewan Legislative Chamber, Regina; Saskatchewan life Assurance Co., Regina; The Edmonton Art Gallery and many private collectors. The University of Saskatchewan conferred the degree of Honourary L.L.D. On Henderson in 1951.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume I: A-F", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1977