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John & Katharine Maltwood Collection

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Notable B.C. Artists in the Collection - C.J. Collings

M964.1.114, Mountain Stream in Winter, by C.J. Collings
Mountain Stream in Winter
by C.J. Collings

Originally from Devon, Collings worked for twenty years in a solicitor's office before deciding to pursue art more seriously. The turning point in his career was marked by the friendship and influence of Frank Brangwyn. In the early 1900's Collings began exhibiting landscapes in the London galleries where he won praise for a similarity in style to Turner's work. He disliked the comparison and sought to escape the interference of critics and the influence of other artists by withdrawing from city life. This led to his self-chosen exile to Shuswap Lake in British Columbia in 1910, where he found a peace and solitude well suited to his temperament. He kept to himself and rarely exhibited with the Vancouver and Victoria art societies, preferring to sell largely through the Carroll Gallery in London. Here his dramatic paintings of the uninhabited regions of the Rockies were hailed as outstanding and his romantic retirement from the scenes of civilization won him the title "Recluse of the Rockies."81

Among his most treasured possessions was a fine collection of Oriental paintings and woodcuts. These appear to have influenced his style which shows a feeling for design and colour that subtly blends the Japanese school and English landscape traditions. As a member of the English Alpine Club and an ardent climber he was also able to capture unusually spectacular aspects of the mountain terrain in British Columbia.

M964.1.115, Nearing the Glacier, by C.J. Collings
Nearing the Glacier
by C.J. Collings

The paintings acquired by the Maltwoods are a good example of Collings' method of interpreting rather than realistically portraying what he saw. In Nearing the Glacier the landscape is delicately expressed in opaque pools of wash. He uses no standard perspective or sense of mass and space and little detail. With forms related to nature and only a few colours he creates "an ambience revealing that there is much behind and beyond the ordinary vision."82 The other work, Mountain Stream in Winter,83 displays Collings' distinguished sense of colour and instinct for decorative pattern. The technique he used involved paper soaked in water and laid on glass or cork to remain moist. He then mixed the colours directly on the paper; a method which freed his imagination and left little time for hampering details.

Collings always reacted with great emotional intensity to the grandeur of his surroundings. Yet although ascetic and austere in spirit, from primeval forests, frozen lakes and mountains towering to the sky, he created works delicate and light in quality. He was described by London critics as having an Olympian detachment and as possessing a mystical understanding of the earth force, attributes Katharine Maltwood would undoubtedly have appreciated.



All content on this page is copyright © 7 February, 2006
Rosemary Brown, the Maltwood Art Museum and Gallery, and the University of Victoria

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