Art at the Union Club

Art has long adorned the walls of the Union Club since the members acquired their first Clubhouse on Douglas Street in 1885. 

The collection reflected the tastes and interests of its members.  The first roster included circuit court judges, lawyers, land surveyors, mining engineers and military personnel. They delighted in the scenic splendours of the Province. Unsurprisingly, their taste coincided with the opportunities for sports fishing and big game hunting which this vast landscape offered in abundance. The Union Club was noted for its outstanding collection of mounted trophy heads.  In 1910 the Union Club loaned this collection of “taxidermy art” to the Dominion Government for exhibition at the Viennese World Exhibition.  The picture collection of paintings and prints also celebrated these wild-life “sports”, and the dramatic landscapes in which they were played, in the grand Romantic tradition. A significant portion of the membership, some in active service with Royal Navy and others retired officers from the British colonial armies, appreciated engraved prints of heroic battle scenes or ships clustered in exotic ports.

Over time this was to change. Architects such as club members William Ridgway Wilson, Francis Mawson Rattenbury and Samuel Maclure, along with collectors and connoisseurs like member John Shallcross, were active in founding the Victoria Arts and Crafts Institute for the education of artists, and the Arts and Crafts Society to organize local art exhibitions.  They both participated in and supported the North-West tradition of plein-air water-colour painting. 

More recently acquisitions feature the work of member artists such as Len Gibbs, Arthur Vickers, Judith Saunders and Stephen Lowe.  The Union Club has recently rededicated itself to further developing the art collection to reflect its own history of engagement in British Columbia culture and the interests of its members in current arts practice.

Beacon Hill Park
Beacon Hill Park
Samuel Maclure (1860-1929)
Watercolour on Paper
Circa 1922
Signed: monogram

This image depicts Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park, officially opened in 1882. By the time Maclure painted this work ca. 1922, he was in his sixties and had evolved his style from his earlier Victorian-era Picturesque to embrace the subtleties of Post-Impressionism.


Born in Sapperton, New Westminster, British Columbia, Samuel Maclure was a successful and influential Canadian architect and artist. He studied painting in Philadelphia from 1884 to 1885. He and his wife, Margaret Catherine (Daisy), a pianist and portrait painter, were founding members of the Vancouver Island Arts and Crafts Society in 1909 and he exhibited work with the group. He was an early member of the Union Club of British Columbia.

Colorful, impressionistic painting of a tree
The Beginning
The Beginning: Battle of the Thunderbird and the Killer Whale
Chris Paul
Sand-carved glass on red-cedar panel
Commissioned by the Union Club 2019

The stories of the Thunderbird and the Whale may vary across different First Nations peoples. They typically describe a shaking earth with water inundating the land and uprooting trees.


Chris Paul is a member of the T’sartlip First Nation near Brentwood Bay on Vancouver Island. He was immersed in Coast Salish art as a child, and was mentored by his uncle, Salish artist Charles Elliott. He trained at En’owkin and at the Gitanmaax School of Northwest Coast Art in ‘Ksan, as well as completing a two-year apprenticeship under Tsimshian First Nations artist, Roy Henry Vickers. He has taught in local schools and given design and carving workshops in his studio and at the University of Victoria.

Round etched glass image with a wooden mounting, done in a First Nations style
Chinese Landscape
Lagoon and Mountain Landscape
Stephen Won H. Lowe (1938- 1975)
Ink and watercolour on paper

This landscape depicts a coastal Chinese village on a lagoon, with mountains in the background. The painting is atmospheric with mist and softly portrayed trees and foliage, and the view is from an elevated distance.


Born in Quangdong, Stephen Won Hung Lowe was an exponent of the “Lingnan school,” a progressive and atmospheric style of painting that is a distinct artistic expression of South China. He studied at the Lingnan School of Art in Hong under Professor Zhao Shaoang (1905-1998), a master artist. After the chaos of civil war, Lowe immigrated to Canada at 18 years of age. Through connections from his first job at the Union Club, he was sponsored for further study in Hong Kong. On his return, he taught painting at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, privately and at the University of Victoria.

A beautiful landscape paintied in dark colors in an Asian style
Forest Trees
Forest Trees
Ina Duncan Dewar Uhtoff RCA (1889-1971)
Conte crayon and charcoal on paper
Ca. 1940

This vibrant landscape image depicts an evergreen in the foreground in a forest of larger trees, clearly demonstrating the artist’s interest in and knowledge of European Expressionism.


Born in Kirn, Scotland, Ina D.D. Uhthoff was raised in a wealthy Glaswegian family. She was a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art, actively exhibiting before her move to Canada. She returned to Glasgow to study for her teachers certificate while her husband went to the front lines in World War I. In 1923, she returned to the Kootenays in 1925 moved to Victoria. On the Island, Uhthoff established a teaching studio, and was introduced with Emily Carr (1871-1945). She founded the Victoria School of Art. In 1945 she took on the responsibility of running The Little Centre, a small public gallery that later moved and re-opened as the Arts Centre of Greater Victoria ultimately becoming the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

Pencil drawing of a forest
Lions Hunting
Lions on the Prowl
Ferdinand Karl Grebestein (1883-1974)
Oil on canvas, 1913

The 1886 Richard Friese oil painting of two hunting lions would have been popular with the big-game sports hunting fraternity in both Europe and North America. This faithful copy was painted by Ferdinand Karl Grebestein in 1913.


Born in Gumbinnen, Germany, Richard Bernhardt Ludwig Friese and was a student (1874-80) and later in 1896 a professor at the Academy of Arts in Berlin. He traveled widely, reportedly to the Orient, Syria, Palestine, Norway, Spitzbergen and Canada. He acquired a reputation as one of the best Naturalist wildlife painters in Germany, along with his colleague artists Carl Rungius (1869-1959) who became the most important big game painter and the first career wildlife artist in North America,


Landscape, portrait and copy artist Ferdinand Karl Grebestein was born in Niederhone, Germany. Grebestein studied at the School of Applied Arts in Kassel, Germany. Later working in Dresden, he exhibited at the 1943 Great Dresden Art Exhibition. Two years later the bombing of Dresden destroyed Grebestein’s studio and his work.

Painting of a lion and lioness in a dry landscape
Indian Dance
Indian Dance
Sybil Andrews (1898-1992)
Linocut print, 1951
Edition 29/75

This vibrant image depicts a group of Pacific Northwest Coast Nootka (now referred to as Nuu-chah-nulth) First Nations men in red with large headdresses performing the ritual Wolf Dance.


Sybil Andrews was elected to the Society of Canadian Painter-Etchers and Engravers in 1951 when her linocut, “Indian Dance”, was selected as the presentation print.


Born in Bury St. Edmunds, England, Sybil Andrews was a English-Canadian artist who specialized in printmaking and is best known for her Modernist dynamic linocuts. From 1922 to 1924 she attended the Heatherley School of Fine Art in London. She was influenced by the art movements of the day: Vorticism with its roots in England, Futurism with its Italian origins, and Cubism with its French and Spanish heritage. During World War II, Andrews worked as a welder in a shipyard where she met her husband. In 1947 the couple immigrated to Campbell River. They purchased an oceanfront cottage where Andrews could have an art studio and a place to give art lessons. Here she achieved a large following which lasted well into the 1950s. She was rediscovered in the 1970s becoming a local celebrity and was later recognized internationally as one of the Grosvenor School’s best artists.

Colorful, impressionistic painting of a tree

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