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 William Edward De Garthe  (1907 - 1983)

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Lived/Active: Quebec/Nova Scotia/Ontario / Canada/Finland      Known for: painting, sculpture, illustration, printmaking, murals and commercial art

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Ad Code: 3
William Edward De Garthe
from Auction House Records.
Peggy's Cove
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
William Edward de Garthe was a painter, sculptor, illustrator, author, draftsman, printmaker, commercial artist, muralist and educator.  He is probably best known for his paintings of marine scenes.

Born in Kasko (AKA: Kaskinen), Finland, a coastal village about 200 miles northwest of Helsinki, he emigrated to Canada in 1926 and died in Etobicoke (Toronto), Ontario. Although he lived in Montreal and elsewhere in Canada, he is most identified with Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, a picturesque fishing village about 20 miles southwest of his home in Halifax. (1)

Throughout his long and diverse art career de Garthe worked in many mediums including charcoal, pen & ink, lithograph* and fresco*; however almost all of his original works in museum collections and sold at auction are oil paintings. His primary subjects were harbors, seascapes, landscapes, sailing ships, fishermen, figures, birds and genre*. His styles were Realism*, Post Impressionism* and Impressionism*. AskART has some good illustrations of his work. (2)

His formal art education includes studies at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts under Edmond Dyonnet (3); and at Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick (c.1945) under Stanley Royle.  He also studied at the Art Students League*, New York City under George Grosz; at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière*, Paris; Académie Julian*, Paris; and at the Accademie di Belle Arti di Roma, Italy; as well as privately under Emile Gruppe (East Gloucester, Massachusetts) and Stanley Woodward (Rockport, Massachusetts). (4)

De Garthe taught at the Nova Scotia College of Art (now, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design).  He was also an art instructor for the YMCA and YWCA in Halifax (and elsewhere in the city) and at outdoor summer painting classes at Peggy's Cove.

Before painting full time, he was the art director of an advertising firm in Halifax for 15 years and ran his own company “de Garthe Advertising Art” in Halifax for 10 years. He is also the author and illustrator of three books: This is Peggy's Cove Nova Scotia (1956), Painting the Sea (1969), and The Story of the Herring Gull: Larus Argentatus (1977).  The first two have been reprinted several times. (5)

His numerous art association memberships include the Nova Scotia Society of Artists, the Nova Scotia Museum of Fine Arts, the Nova Scotia Arts Council, the Maritime Art Association, the International Institute of Arts and Letters, and the American Artists Professional League*. (6)

In addition to exhibiting with the above artist’s organizations, his works have been exhibited at the Halifax Memorial Library [by the Nova Scotia Museum of Fine Arts] (1958) and at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton, New Brunswick (1959); as well as at other venues in Montreal, Toronto, the West Indies, London (England), and Florida. (7)

De Garthe’s paintings are frequently traded on the Canadian auction market, they are in numerous private collections, and there are several in public collections.

According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* and individual museum websites, there are William E. De Garthe works in the permanent collections of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), Dalhousie Art Gallery (Halifax), Owens Art Gallery (Sackville, N.B.), and the Public Archives Building (Halifax). (8)

The best known examples of his murals are those he completed in 1963 for St. John's Anglican Church, Peggy's Cove. (9)

De Garthe’s Fisherman’s Memorial sculpture is probably his single most famous work of art. The popular Nova Scotia landmark is carved on a 100 foot long granite out cropping in Peggy’s Cove. It’s discussed in most regional travel books such as Nova Scotia (2006) by Andrew Hempstead; Exploring Nova Scotia (2006) by Dale Dunlop and Alison Scott; and “Unforgettable Atlantic Canada – The 100 Must See Destinations and Events” (2010) by Harvey Sawler and George Fischer. The land the monument is located on used to be de Garthe’s private property; it is now the William E. de Garthe Memorial Provincial Park. (10)


(1.1) Sources: Canadian Heritage Information Network* data base.

(1.2) The AskART Discussion Board includes a personal reminiscence of de Garth’s vacations on Anna Maria Island, Florida (Holmes Beach). See Sue 02/24/2009.

(2.1) Sources: AskART Images; and museum illustrations and descriptions of mediums in the Canadian Heritage Information Network* data base.

(2.2) Note: There is at least one de Garthe lithograph* in the collection of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the illustrations in his books are pen and ink*, and his murals would be fresco*. Source: Ibid; and A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references).

(2.3) The AskART Discussion Board has several references to his charcoal drawings reproduced by lithography.

(3) All artist teachers and artist associates mentioned in this biography, except those with bracketed dates after their names, have their own pages in AskART.

(4.1) Education sources: Province of Nova Scotia Archives; Library and Archives of Canada; 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; Who's Who in American Art – 15th Edition (1982), by Jaques Cattell Press; and Who Was Who in American Art, 1564 – 1975 (1999), by Peter Hastings Falk (see AskART book references). Unfortunately, specific dates as a student or teacher were not provided by any source.

(4.2) A Dictionary of Canadian Artists is the only source that refers to de Garthe studying art in Helsinki (AKA: Helsingfors), however they do not name a school or teacher.  It also mentions him studying sculpture under Havannah (?) and Zorach.  We presume that would be at the Art Students League* where William Zorach taught.

(4.3) Please note: Both Gruppe and Woodward had namesake art schools, which are not specifically mentioned by our source, but at which de Garthe probably studied. – MDS

(5) Source: Ibid.

(6.1) Association sources: 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; Who's Who in American Art –15th Edition (1982), by Jaques Cattell Press; and Who Was Who in American Art, 1564 – 1975 (1999), by Peter Hastings Falk (see AskART book references).

(6.2) Please note: The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction lists de Garthe as a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* and the Ontario Society of Artists*. His name is not recorded as a past member of either organization on their respective websites, nor could we find any record of a de Garthe work exhibited with either organization.  Sources: Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members, 1880 – 1979 (1981), by Evelyn de R. McMann; and the Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art* (OSA exhibition database).

(6.3) Please note: Who Was Who in American Art, 1564 – 1975 and Who's Who in American Art – 15th Edition (1982), by Jaques Cattell Press also lists De Garthe as a member of, and exhibitor with, the Royal Society of Marine Painters; because we cannot find an organization by that name, online or elsewhere, we presume they are referring to the association named the Royal Society of Marine Artists*.

(7) Sources: Who Was Who in American Art, 1564 – 1975 (1999), by Peter Hastings Falk; and A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references).

(8) A Dictionary of Canadian Artists includes the Barbados Museum of Fine Arts, Bridgetown, B.W.I. as a collector of de Garthe paintings. We could not find an institution with that name online, and unfortunately the Barbados Museum and Historical Society, which does have an art collection, does not have the details of their collection posted online for confirmation.

(9) Source: Ibid.

(10) Please note: He had reached only the halfway point in carving the monument at the time of his death, it remains incomplete. Sources: Ibid; Nova Scotia Archives; and Nova Scotia.Com.

Additional sources: Biographical Index of Artists in Canada (2003), by Evelyn de Rostaing McMann; and Maritime Artists: Volume 1 (1967) by Mary W. Hashey (see AskART book references).

* 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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