Iconic Muse, Yet Forgotten Artist: Vera Olivia Weatherbie

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The Group of Seven is arguably made up of Canada’s most famous artists. Best known for their landscape paintings, there are few portraits that have become national Canadian icons, including Frederick Varley’s Vera (1930).
Perhaps the most highly regarded of all Canadian portraits, the rendering of this mysterious woman sparks our curiosity through her captivating eyes and coy smile. She reappears in many of Varley’s paintings, and photographs by John Vanderpant, and later Harold Mortimer Lamb. An inspirational muse to many famous Canadian artists, her own worth as an artist is often underrated.
Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Art
Vera Olivia Weatherbie was an accomplished painter in her own right, regarded more so now than during her lifetime. She was born in 1909 in Vancouver and attended Brittania Secondary School. She grew up in the Strathcona neighbourhood near Chinatown in Vancouver’s East end. Her parents were strict, conservative Presbyterians, yet somehow she was able to persuade them to let her attend the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts (VSDAA) at the young age of 16.
In her second year, Vera became one of Varley’s drawing students. The two became close over the years, but it wasn’t until her postgraduate years at VSDAA that their relationship flourished. As a “shy and beautiful” young woman who “moved with a grace” similar to that of a Japanese Tea party, Molly Bobak Lamb remarks that it was easy for men to become infatuated with Vera’s. Varley’s Vera paintings success as a Willingdon Prize winner, a collection piece at the National Gallery of Canada, and eventually praised with its creation into a postage stamp only confirms Molly’s suggestion of Vera’s enchanting capabilities.
Her paintin...

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...t way, like Varley’s 1930 Vera, she remains a mystery, a forgotten artist, best known for he work as a muse, model, and wife. It is often wondered what kind of work she would have done if she had remained single mindedly focused on her art like the famous Emily Carr

Works Cited

Amos, Robert. Harold Mortimer Lamb: the art lover. Victoria, BC: TouchWood Editions, 2013. Print.

Tuele, Nicholas. British Columbia women artists, 1885-1985: an exhibition. Victoria, B.C., Canada: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 1985. Print.

Michael Clark. "Vera Weatherbie: Vancouver Artist," Visions in the Making: The Official Publication of the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. 2 (September 1995).
Vancouver Art Gallery. “Vera Olivia Weatherbie: Artist’s Biography.” Vancouver Art Gallery. 2006. http://projects.vanartgallery.bc.ca/publications/75years/pdf/Weatherbie_Vera_55.pdf

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