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 George Douglas Pepper  (1903 - 1962)

About: George Douglas Pepper
 

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Lived/Active: Ontario / Canada      Known for: landscape painting, war artist, printmaking, illustration

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
NORTH SHORE VILLAGE
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Captain George Douglas Pepper was a painter, draughtsman, illustrator, printmaker, educator and a famous Canadian war artist.  His works have been included in some of Canada's most important exhibitions of 20th Century art. They are also in most of Canada's major museums.

He was born in Ottawa, Ontario and died in Toronto, Ontario where he had lived since 1932. (1)

His mediums included oil, watercolor, Conte Crayon*, pencil, charcoal, ink and linocut*.  His subjects were landscapes, portraits, genre*, figures, nudes, Eskimos, totems, Indians, farm life, urban scenes and war.  The peacetime painting locations ranged across Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia to the Arctic.  They also included locations from his travels in Europe and North Africa.  During World War II, he painted on military bases in Western Canada, in England and, shortly after the D-Day invasion, on the frontline in North-West Europe (2).  His styles were Realism* and Fauvism*.  AskART have some good illustrations of his work. (3)

His art education includes graduation from the Ontario College of Art, Toronto (1920 – 1924), where he studied under J.E.H. MacDonald (4), Arthur Lismer, Robert Holmes, G.A. Reid and J.W. Beatty; and a year at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière*, Paris, France (1924 – 1925). (5)

After working as a draughtsman for the forestry service (1925 – 1931) he began his teaching career in 1932 at the Ontario College of Art, Toronto as instructor in drawing and painting.  He eventually became vice-principal of the College (1950 – 1962) and worked there until his sudden death.  He also taught summers at the Banff School of Fine Arts in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960’s (sources specifically note 1947, 1957 and 1962). (6)

Pepper and his wife artist Kathleen Daly Pepper (see AskART), whom he married in 1929, travelled extensively across Canada as well as in Europe and North Africa.  Highlights of their trips included Newfoundland, Labrador, St. Pierre and Miquelon (1951); Spain and Morocco (1955 – 1956); a three month voyage through the eastern Canadian Arctic (1960); and seven weeks in the Eskimo settlement of Povungnituk in northern Quebec (1961). (7)

He was one of the founding members of the Canadian Group of Painters* (1933) and later its President (1959).  He was also a member of the Ontario Society of Artists* (1934), the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* (Associate 1942, Academician 1957), the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour* (1947) and the Toronto Arts and Letters Club. (8)

In addition to exhibiting with the above organizations his works were also included in several important group exhibitions including "Artists of the British Empire Overseas", Royal Institute Galleries, London, England (1937); "A Century of Canadian Art", Tate Gallery, London, England (1938); the New York World’s Fair (1939); and "Canadian War Art", showing at the National Gallery, London, England and at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (1946). (9)

He also exhibited in the Spring shows at the Art Association of Montreal [now Montreal Museum of Fine Arts] from 1928 to 1939 and he was chosen to exhibit with the Group of Seven* three times – 1926, 1928 and 1930.

A memorial exhibition of his work was held at the National Gallery of Canada in October, 1964.

Posthumously, his works were included in “Canadian Painting in the Thirties”, National Gallery of Canada (1975); “A Terrible Beauty: The Art of Canada at War”, Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa, Ontario and touring (1977); “The Canadian Landscape”, Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris (1984); “The Group of Seven – Art For A Nation”, National Gallery of Canada (1995); “Kathleen Daly, George D. Pepper”, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario (1999); “Canvas of War: Painting the Canadian Experience, 1914 to 1945”, Art Gallery of Ontario (2001 – 2002); “Point(s) of View: the changing face of native representation”, Museum London, Ontario (2002); and  “Atlantica: the view from away”, Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia  (2004).

As noted above, during World War II he served in the Royal Canadian Army (1943 – 1946) in Europe as a war artist eventually promoted to the rank of Captain.  In 1944 he, Captain Orville N. Fisher and Captain Will A. Ogilvie, exhibited their paintings of the Canadian Army's advance through France and Belgium (June – October, 1944), at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels.  The Canadian War Museum, Ottawa houses a collection of 169 of Pepper’s World War II paintings and drawings. (10)

George Pepper’s works are avidly collected in Canada.  They are also in numerous public collections. According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* there are 390 of his works in museums across the country. They include: Museum London (Ontario), the Art Gallery of Hamilton (Ontario), the Winnipeg Art Gallery (Manitoba), the Vancouver Art Gallery (B.C.), the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), the McMichael Canadian Art Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario), the Owens Art Gallery (Sackville, N.B.), the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), the Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton), the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, Ontario), the Agnes Etherington Art Centre (Kingston, Ontario), the Art Gallery of Mississauga (Ontario), the Ottawa Art Gallery (Ontario), the Quebec Museum of Fine Arts (Quebec City), the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies (Banff, Alberta), the Beaverbrook Art Gallery (Fredericton, New Brunswick), The Market Gallery (Toronto), and the National Gallery of Canada.

As previously noted, the Canadian War Museum has the largest collection of his works; but, according to the Society of Quebec Museums, the Baie-Saint-Paul Exhibition Centre with the second largest is probably the most comprehensive collection.  It contains 169 works comprising examples of virtually all his mediums and subjects from Quebec landscapes, to British Columbia totems, to arctic life, to the front lines of World War II.

Examples of his illustrations can be found in articles by Marius Barbeau which appeared in La Presse in 1925 and 1931; and in the books The Kingdom of Saguenay (1936), by Marius Barbeau  and Men of Valour”(1948), by Mabel Tinkiss Good. (11)

Among his awards is the 1930 Willingdon Prize*, in which his Totem Pole: Kitwanga shared the prize with one of Frederick Varley's many portraits of artist Vera Weatherbie. (12)

 
Footnotes:

(1) Source: Art Gallery of Ontario – the Canadian Collection (1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield (see AskART book references).

(2) “In late 1944, while en route to a town near Antwerp, he and Captain George Engler discovered a German soldier in a slit trench and took him prisoner but while escorting him to their jeep their prisoner tried to take their firearm and was killed.  The sound of the shot aroused other enemy soldiers in the area.  The two men made for cover in a nearby ditch where Engler was killed and Pepper, with his escape cut off, had to remain hidden for ten days with no food. He finally managed to escape and was picked up by a British patrol.”  Source: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references).

(3) Sources: AskART Images; Museum illustrations and descriptions of mediums in the Canadian Heritage Information Network* data base; and the collection of the Canadian War Museum (online) http://collections.civilization.ca/public/pages/cmccpublic/emupublic/ResultsList.php.

(4) All artist teachers, and artist associates mentioned in this biography and its footnotes have their own pages in AskART.

(5) Source: Art Gallery of Ontario – the Canadian Collection (1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield (see AskART book references).

(6) Sources: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald; and Artists, Builders and Dreamers (1982), by David and Peggy Leighton (see AskART book references).

Note: Some sources, most notably the “National Gallery of Canada Catalogue, Vol. 3, Canadian School” (1960), by R.H. Hubbard say Pepper moved to Toronto and started teaching at the Ontario College of Art in 1930.  Without prejudice, we have chosen to use the dates 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; and in Art Gallery of Ontario – the Canadian Collection (1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield.

(7.1) Sources: Art Gallery of Ontario – the Canadian Collection (1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield; and A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references).

(7.2) In 1928, George under the direction of ethnographer Dr. Marius Barbeau, travelled with Pegi Nicol MacLeod (see AskART) to the Skeena River in British Columbia to record the deteriorating totem poles before engineers began restoration work.  Source: National Gallery of Canada http://cybermuse.gallery.ca/cybermuse/search/artwork_e.jsp?mkey=10050.

(8) Sources: Art Gallery of Ontario – the Canadian Collection (1970), by Helen Pepall Bradfield; and Four Decades: The Canadian Group of Painters and Their Contemporaries – 1930 - 1970 (1972), by Paul Duval (see AskART book references).

(9) Sources for exhibitions: the Art Gallery of Ontario archived catalogue summaries (online); The Collector's Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar; A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald; and The Group of Seven – Art for a Nation (1995), by Charles C. Hill (see AskART book references).

(10) Sources: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald; and the Canadian War Museum (online). Note: While 169 works, by one artist, in any museum is impressive, it only puts Pepper in 8th place for most works in the CWM.  Ahead of him are Albert Cloutier – 186, Paul Goranson – 207, Charles Comfort – 209, Carl Schaefer – 225, Orville Fisher – 246, Alex Colville – 336, Will Ogilvie – 443, and E.J. Hughes with 531. Sources: Artists listed in “A Terrible Beauty: The Art of Canada at War” (1977), by Heather Robertson; counts are from the Canadian War Museum (online).

(11) Sources: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald; and, Independent Online Booksellers Association - http://www.iobabooks.com/books/21733719.html.

(12) Source: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (1974), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references).

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see AskART.com Glossary http://www.askart.com/AskART/lists/Art_Definition.aspx.

 
Prepared and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.

 
 

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.
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