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 Vera Olivia Weatherbie  (1909 - 1977)

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Lived/Active: British Columbia / Canada      Known for: portrait, interior, landscape, cityscape painting, graphics

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
Portrait of Molly Bobak, artist's step-daughter, oil on canvas, 18" x 14"
Collection of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. All rights reserved.
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Vera Weatherbie (AKA: Vera Olivia Weatherbie, AKA: Vera Mortimer-Lamb) (1) was a painter, graphic artist and educator.  She was also a famous model for painter Frederick Varley (2) and photographer John Vanderpant (3).  Currently, more museums in Canada have paintings and photographs of her than works by her.  Though, that ratio could change with the renewal of interest in her painting as indicated by its inclusion in recent exhibitions.

Born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, she lived there her whole life, and, died in Burnaby, B.C., a municipality in the greater Vancouver area.

Her mediums were oil, watercolor, charcoal, pencil and mixed mediums. Her subjects were portraits, interiors, landscapes, cityscapes, mysticism and genre*. Her style was Fauvism*. (4)

Weatherbie’s formal art education includes studies under Frederick Varley and J.W.G. MacDonald, in the first class of students, at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts (5) (1925 – 1929).  She did post graduate studies at the VSDAA (1930) and at the Royal Academy Schools of Painting and Sculpture, London, England (1931 – 1932) under Sir Walter Thomas Monnington and Sir Walter Westley Russell (6).

She taught drawing, composition and painting at the British Columbia College of Art (1933 - 1935), a rival school to the VSDAA founded in 1933 by Frederick Varley, Harry Täuber (1900 – 1975) and J.W.G.  Macdonald (7).

She was a member of the British Columbia Society of Fine Arts (8) and exhibited with them in 1929, 1932, 1934, 1938, 1944, 1945, 1949, 1950 and 1952. In 1930, she was also a founding member of the PASOVAS (Pioneer Art Students of Vancouver Art School) Art Club.

Her other group exhibitions include “BC Artists” shows at the Vancouver Art Gallery (1932, 1933, 1934, 1938, 1944, 1945, 1949, 1950 and 1952); the “Annual Exhibition of Canadian Art”, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1930, 1931 and 1933); the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (1930); the Twenty-Third Annual Exhibition of Northwest Artists in Seattle, Washington (1930); the “All-Canadian Exhibition”,  Vancouver Art Gallery (1932); and the “Jubilee Exhibition” of the Vancouver Art Gallery (1946).

Posthumously, her works have been featured in several important group exhibitions including “Vancouver School of Art: The Early Years, 1925 – 1939”, Emily Carr College of Art (1980); “Vancouver Art & Artists, 1931 – 1983”, Vancouver Art Gallery (1983); “British Columbia Women Artists, 1885 – 1985”, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (1985); “ First Class: Four Graduates from the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts, 1929” (9), Vancouver touring exhibition (1987); “Three West Coast Women” (Emily Carr and Sophie Pemberton were the others), Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, B.C.(1997); “Face to Face: Four Centuries of Portraits”,  Vancouver Art Gallery (1999); “Rhetoric of Utopia: John Vanderpant and his Contemporaries”, Vancouver Art Gallery (1999); “75 Years of Collecting: The Road to Utopia”,  Vancouver Art Gallery (2006); and “F.H. Varley: Portraits into the Light”, Varley Art Gallery, Markham, Ontario (and touring) (2007).

Her awards include the Vancouver Exhibition Association Scholarship in Drawing & Painting (1927 – 1928 and 1928 – 1929); the Fyfe-Smith Travelling Scholarship (1929); Willingdon Prize* honorable mentions (1930 and 1931); and the Vancouver Art Gallery Beatrice Stone Medal in Painting (1934).

Several works by Vera Weatherbie are in the permanent collections of Vancouver Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the latter also holds the Weatherbie archives.

Her art is discussed in “A Dictionary of Canadian Artists" (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald; The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar; Vancouver: Art and Artists 1931 – 1983 (1983), by Luke Rombout; and By A Lady (1992), by Maria Tippett (see all in AskART book references).

As a model, she is the subject of paintings by Frederick Varley and photographs by John Vanderpant, held in the permanent collections of the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario), the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), the Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton) and the National Gallery of Canada, which has four.

One of Frederick Varley’s several portraits of her titled Vera, (this one dated 1931) in the National Gallery of Canada collection, is arguably the most famous portrait painting in Canada.  It is illustrated in numerous books about Canadian art and Canadian art history and has been exhibited in many Canadian landmark exhibitions.  Its exhibition history includes the Tate Gallery, London, England (“A Century of Canadian Art” – 1938); the National Gallery, Washington, D.C. (“Canadian Painting” – 1950); the National Gallery of Canada (“Three Hundred Years of Canadian Art” – 1967); and the National Gallery of Canada (“Canadian Painting in the 30s” – 1975).

Illustrations of paintings of Vera Weatherbie as subject can be seen in the books The Development of Canadian Art (1964), by R.H. Hubbard; Three Hundred Years of Canadian Art (1967), by R.H. Hubbard and J.R. Ostiguy; Landmarks of Canadian Art (1978) by Peter Mellen; The Logic of Ecstasy: Canadian Mystical Painting, 1920 – 1940 (1992), by Ann Davis; The Group of Seven: Art For A Nation (1995) by Charles C. Hill and The Group of Seven and Tom Thomson (2006) by David P. Silcox (see all in AskART book references).  


(1) In 1942, she married mining executive, publisher, art critic, art collector, photographer and painter Harold Mortimer-Lamb.  She is the step-mother of his daughter, Canadian artist, Molly Lamb Bobak.

(2) Quote: “Vera was the greatest single influence in my life. Without knowing it she made me see colour in a new light." – Frederick Varley.

(3) All artists, teachers, students, influences and associates mentioned in this biography and its footnotes, except those with bracketed birth and death dates after their names, have their own pages in AskART.

(4) AskART image examples of works with Vera as subject can be seen in the Varley and Vanderpant pages, for another example of her painting see the Molly Bobak biography page.

(5) The school's evolution of names: Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts (1925); Vancouver School of Art: Decorative and Applied (1933); Vancouver School of Art (1937); Emily Carr College of Art (1978); Emily Carr College of Art and Design (1981); Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design (1995); and finally, Emily Carr University of Art + Design (2008). (Source: Emily Carr University of Art + Design).

(6) Her VSDAA friend, artist Irene Hoffar Reid, also studied at the RAS; the two women shared a flat. Source: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald and Judith Parker.

(7) The College relied on its tuition base for survival and only managed to do so for two years. It closed in 1935.  Source: 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).

(8) The British Columbia Society of Artists, after 1950.

(9) With Lilias Farley (1907 – 1989), Irene Hoffar Reid and Beatrice Lennie (1905 – 1987).

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.


** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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