Frederick H. Varley, A.R.C.A. (1881-1969)

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"The artist's job is to unlock fetters and release spirit, to tear to pieces and recreate so forcefully that . . . the imagination of the onlooker is awakened and completes within himself the work of art."
(F.H. Varley, letter to his sisters Lili and Ethel, February 1936)

F.H. (Frederick Horsman) Varley saw art as a spiritual vocation. His interest in the figure as well as landscape set him apart from other members of the Group of Seven, of which he was a founding member (1920).

At the age of eleven, Varley enrolled in the Sheffield School of Art, and between 1900 and 1902 he studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Antwerp. He emigrated in 1912 to work as a commercial artist in Toronto, following in the path of Arthur Lismer, also from Sheffield. There he met the future members of the Group of Seven and painted in Algonquin Park in 1914 with Tom Thomson and others. In 1918-20 he served as a war artist in England and France, producing some of the most moving canvases of the war.

One of Varley's most famous works is Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay (1921), painted after a summer at Georgian Bay, yet he was primarily a figure and portrait painter. In 1926 he moved to Vancouver to teach at the recently established Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts, and for the first time landscape painting, in oil and watercolour, became his principal interest. His attraction to Asian philosophies and Chinese painting and colour symbolism characterizes his paintings from this period. Severely affected by the Depression in 1936, he left British Columbia for Ottawa, eventually moving to Montreal and then Toronto in 1944. He travelled to the Arctic in 1938 and to the Soviet Union in 1954 with a group of other Canadian artists, writers, and musicians.

Courtesy the National Gallery of Canada

A native of Sheffield, England, Frederick Horsman Varley first studied art at the Sheffield School of Art. He completed additional studies at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts, in Antwerp, Belgium.

Encouraged by childhood friend Arthur Lismer, Varley immigrated to Canada in 1912, where he discovered employment in the field of commercial design.

 

After serving as an official war artist during World War I, he became increasingly interested in painting the human figure. The landscape, however, continued to captivate him as an artistic subject.

 

Travels and Discovery

 

Restless by nature, Varley was constantly on the move. His travels took him to remote areas of the world, including the Arctic and Russia.

 

In 1945 he returned to Toronto, where he would remain for the rest of his life.

 

Varley is buried in the small cemetery on the McMichael gallery grounds.

 

 

Source:  McMichael Canadian Art Collection.

Galerie Eric Klinkhoff, Canadian Art Dealer & Gallery in Montreal

Frederick H. Varley, A.R.C.A. (1881-1969)

"Northern Coast near Mausell Island, Eastern Arctic Patrol"

Oil on panel 11.3/4" x 15" (SOLD)

Galerie Eric Klinkhoff, Canadian Art Dealer & Gallery in Montreal

Frederick H. Varley, A.R.C.A. (1881-1969)

"Late Afternoon, Kootenay Lake, B.C."

Oil on panel 11.1/2" x 14.1/2" (SOLD)