Who is the Artist?

Nikon D700, Nikon 28-300mm, f/5.6, Aperture Priority, 15s, -0.3EV, ISO 800

Do you know who painted this picture? Nope, it’s not a trick question or a contest. The artist didn’t sign it and I am asking the question as a favour for a friend who owns it. I realize that the likelihood of a visitor knowing the artist or anything about this work is remote, but I promised to help the owner use the Internet to at least ask. And the obvious place to start is right here.

This oil painting was left to my friend when his grandparents died. His grandfather immigrated from England in the early 1900s. His grandmother was a second generation Canadian whose own grandmother had immigrated from Scotland as a young girl. They met and married in Canada. Shortly after his arrival, he started working for the Canadian National Railway eventually becoming a Station Master. He was working there when the deadly Spanish Flu epidemic struck in 1918. This terrible disease eventually killed 50 to 100 million people around the world. Because he was so exposed to the public and constantly handling money (since he sold all the tickets), he assumed that he would eventually be infected, too. For the rest of his life he attributed his luck for not catching the flu to the fact that after selling tickets he always washed his hands with a strong yellow carbolic soap.

This painting was likely in the possession of one of my friend’s grandparents before they were married. So it may well be that the artist was either English or Scottish. One vexing question is, “Is this painting even an original or is it a copy rendered by someone else? Another mystery is “When was it painted?” My guess is sometime between the latter half of the 1800s to about the start of World War I. It’s a small painting about 6 1/2″ x 9 1/2″ (16.5 x 24.1 cm) and, if an original, likely executed by a competent artist or by a talented amateur. It doesn’t appear to be painted by a Canadian artist of any popular repute.

Finally, it’s possible that the painting could have come from almost anywhere as a gift to my friend’s grandparents. Not only was his grandfather well-liked, both were considered big-hearted and generous. During the Great Depression, they were always amazed at how many transients would knock on their door asking if they could work for a meal. (Transients during the Depression were not bums looking for a free meal. They were often family men travelling from town to town desperately looking for any work.) Their neighbours never seemed to get so many men knocking on their doors. Then one day, grandfather discovered why. While cleaning around the bulletin board at the train station he noticed a handwritten note that said if you were willing to chop some wood or do other chores for a meal, go to this address — they never turn anyone away. The address on the note belonged to my friend’s grandfather.

If you can help identify the artist, please contact Steve Carlson at 647-292-2400 or contact us by e-mail. Or, if you prefer, please add your comment to this post.

And thank you for considering this request.

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