Feb. 14, 2015: This quote is from today’s Globe and Mail:
“Toronto police are investigating the recent theft of three paintings from the University of Toronto, including one by the 18th-century Italian master Francesco Guardi, two of whose works have sold for tens of millions of dollars at auction in the last four years.
At this stage, police believe the thefts, done between Jan. 30 and Feb. 10, are likely the work of the same person, a spokesperson said Friday. The Guardi, a Venetian view painting titled Church of Santa Maria della Salute, was taken from Trinity College on a date a Trinity official declined to reveal Friday. The others – Morning at Peggy’s Cove by William E. deGarthe and Credit River by Yee Bon – were removed on, respectively, Feb. 3 and the Feb. 7-8 weekend from Victoria University, according to Gillian Pearson, curator of the collection. In each instance, the thief or thieves left the painting’s frame behind.”
I have a painting of Peggy’s Cove right inside my front door (in the so-called “foyer.”) My painting of Peggy’s Cove is by deGarthe.
The provenance of this painting is as follows.
Back in the old days (1962-3?) when the Thorncliffe Marketplace was young and new, and so was Thorncliffe Park itself, my cousin Libby (Elizabeth Smith, daughter of uncle Kenneth M. Smith) opened an art store in the Thorncliffe Marketplace (indoor shopping centre.) She sold art supplies, and original paintings. She had attended what is now OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design) and was herself a very gifted artist. Someday I will post the pencil drawing she did of me before I was even a teenager. My best guess would be that this store adventure was when my daughter Anne was a new baby that I pushed to the mall in her carriage. But I digress.
Uncle Ken wanted to see his daughter succeed in her art store business, and so he somehow facilitated the visit of the artist Wm.deGarthe to Toronto to be (briefly) the ‘artist in residence’ while Libby was his agent in Toronto, displaying and selling his paintings from her store. DeGarthe painted a lot in Nova Scotia (I have never looked up his bio) which may have been why Uncle Ken was enamored of his work. (My Mother and all her siblings were born in Halifax.)
Being a new mom on a budget, and having retired (pregnant women teachers were required to quit their teaching jobs – I had lost my contract!) with no income of my own, I drooled over the paintings that I could not afford. One day Uncle Ken was in the store when I was there, looking around and (I must confess) fondling some of the paintings. I had been to Peggy’s Cove with my parents on our Nova Scotia trip, which I think was in 1950 (IIRC!) I’d fallen in love with Peggy’s Cove, and deGarthe’s paintings captured the seaside atmosphere perfectly. That day, Uncle Ken bought a deGarthe painting for me as a gift, and I have treasured it ever since (because of all the back-story which I have just related.)
So today I opened The Globe and Mail and found one of his paintings has been stolen, from Victoria College’s library! I don’t remember a deGarthe in the Vic Library when I was a Vic student, but the article this morning tells the reader that Vic received the painting as a bequest. I do know that this painting of mine has some value, but not much. DeGarthe was a second-rank Canadian painter in the larger scheme of things.That is, he was no Tom Thomson. But he WAS Canadian and that was enough for me. My painting (framed for me by cousin Libby) is 16 cm by 21 cm. Not worth a lot, but something. Maybe $500. Since I know what it cost Uncle Ken ($45), I would say the painting has appreciated quite nicely.
But most importantly, I enjoy my painting as much for the story of how it came to live with me as much as I appreciate having ‘Peggy’s Cove in the fog’ living in my home. I have been to Peggy’s Cove three times, and so I love my painting just for the memories of “Peggy’s” that it creates. My painting may have a title but I can’t see it. When Libby framed it for me, she covered the entire back of the painting with protective paper. So I just refer to it as ‘my Peggy’s Cove painting’ or as ‘my deGarthe.’ The painting is a little over 50 years old now. I have enjoyed it every day of that half-century. I hope that somewhere, deGarthe is glad that people still enjoy his work.