Artwork by Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith,  Fishing Fleet, Mouth of the Fraser River, B.C., circa 1910

F.M. Bell-Smith
Fishing Fleet, Mouth of the Fraser River, B.C., circa 1910

oil on canvas
signed lower right
22 x 34 ins ( 55.9 x 86.4 cms )

Auction Estimate: $20,000.00$15,000.00 - $20,000.00

Price Realized $15,600.00
Sale date: December 6th 2023

Provenance:
Uno Langmann Antiques, Vancouver, 1980
Private Collection, Vancouver
Acquired by the present Private Collection, Spring 1981
Exhibited:
“Thirty‒Eighth Annual Exhibition”, Ontario Society of Artists, Toronto, from March 1910, no. 8
“Collector's Canada: Selections from a Toronto Private Collection,” Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; travelling to Musée du Québec, Quebec City; Vancouver Art Gallery; Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, 14 May 1988‒7 May 1989, no. 21
“Artists on the CPR”, Glenbow Museum, 20 June‒20 September 2009
“Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven”, Vancouver Art Gallery; travelling to the Glenbow Museum, Calgary; Art Gallery of Hamilton, 30 October 2015‒25 September 2016
Literature:
‘Uno Langmann Limited’, “Antiques and Art 7”, October‒November 1980, reproduced on inside back cover as “Salmon Fishing Fleet at the Mouth of the Fraser River, B.C.”
Dennis Reid, “Collector's Canada: Selections from a Toronto Private Collection”, Toronto, 1988, no. 21, reproduced page x and 30
Ian Thom, et al., “Embracing Canada: Landscapes from Krieghoff to the Group of Seven,” Vancouver/London, 2015, reproduced page 79
Geoff Meggs, “Strange New Country: The Fraser River Salmon Strikes of 1900‒1901 and The Birth of Modern British Columbia”, British Columbia, 2018, reproduced on the cover
Frederic M. Bell-Smith took advantage of the new Canadian Pacific Railway from 1887 onward and travelled to western Canada. In 1886 the vice-president of the railway, William Cornelius Van Horne, offered free travel passes to several artists who would sketch and paint vistas of the Canadian west. He wanted artwork that would heighten public interest in transcontinental travel. Enamoured by the majesty of the Rockies, Bell-Smith found inspiration in the distinct landscape and returned throughout the remainder of his life to render the terrain in watercolour and oil paintings.

The longest waterway in British Columbia, The Fraser River is a historic fishing destination, known for its sturgeon and salmon. In “Fishing Fleet, Mouth of the Fraser Rivers, B.C.”, Bell-Smith depicts a scene of sailing fishermen out on the river, with multiple sailboats lining the horizon in the distance, below the rocky mountains on a sunny day. His regional and cross-country travels led Bell-Smith to advocate for a Canadian school of art which distinguished itself by the use of the Canadian landscape as its subject matter. Later artists, including Tom Thomson, Emily Carr and the Group of Seven, would further develop this focus on Canada’s natural environment in art.

Bell-Smith returned to Europe many times throughout his career; he painted a series of pictures on the Death of Sir John Thomson who died at Windsor Castle minutes after being sworn in by Queen Victoria as a member of the Privy Council of Canada. While at Windsor Castle he did several canvases of the Queen, two of which are in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. In 1896 he studied at the Académie Colarossi in Paris before returning to Alma College in St. Thomas, Ontario 1897 to resume his duties as art director until 1910. “Fishing Fleet” was painted in 1910, while at Alma College and during the height of the artist's career. The artist contemplated moving to Britain during this time, but he decided to remain based in Canada. Back in Ontario, Bell–Smith advocated for a distinctly Canadian style, foreshadowing the major art movements to come.

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Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith
(1846 - 1923) OSA RCA

Born in London, England, his father was John Bell-Smith a portrait and miniature painter. He studied in London at the South Kensington Art Schools, and in Paris under Courtois, Dupain, and T.A. Harrison. He arrived in Montreal in 1867 and worked for a time as a photographer. Active in art circles he was associated with his father in the founding of the Society of Canadian Artists in 1867 along with W.L. Fraser, Otto R. Jacobi, Henry Sandham and A. Vogt. He lived mainly in Montreal until 1871 when he married Annie Myra Dyde and established residence at Hamilton (1871 and 1879-81). He was active in Southern Ontario as an art teacher in public schools at London, (1881-8); Art Director of Alma College, St. Thomas, Ontario, (1881-90) and Director at the Toronto Art School in 1889.

His style falls somewhere between mid Victorian and the modern movements of freer expression. Dr. Hubbard notes how Bell-Smith’s canvas “Lights of A City Street”reveals his conservative inclination of “sober brownish style” and E.F.B. Johnston on the other hand spoke of his brilliant colour and freedom of treatment. The artist chose this conservative style perhaps more for historical scenes. He painted figures, portraits, cityscapes, seascapes, beach scenes, and mountain scenes and most of his work was done in oils or watercolours. Paul Duval tells of how he sold his water colours in quantity at the market place, especially his meticulously done street scenes. He traveled to Western Canada and painted a number of water colours and oils of the Rocky Mountains.

He also went to England to do a series of pictures on the Death of Sir John Thomson who died at Windsor Castle minutes after being sworn in, by Queen Victoria, as a member of the Privy Council of Canada. While at Windsor Castle he did several canvases of the Queen and two of these are in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. In 1896 he studied at the Académie Colarossi in Paris and returned to Alma College Canada in 1897 to resume his duties as art director until 1910. He was an active as an illustrator and contributed to a series of pictures for the book “Picturesque Canada” which contained prose by George Monro Grant and illustrations by more than a score of American and Canadian artists. It was first published about 1882. He was elected Associate Member of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1880 and Member in 1886; Member, Ontario Society of Artists (1872). He died in Toronto, Ontario.

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