Saturday, October 26, 2013

The Linmers: A Victoria Legacy at Winchester Gallery on Humboldt st.

In 1971 the most experienced professional artists in Victoria banded together as The Limners Society. The Limners - the name is derived from “illuminators” - were mature artists of broad international experience and, for more than a quarter century, they occupied the top level of Victoria’s unexpectedly rich cultural scene. Unlike other Canadian groups - Toronto’s Painters Eleven, the Regina Five - who were brought together for an exhibition, the Limners joined forces in friendship and mutual respect. They never drafted an artistic manifesto but we can recognize their deep roots and shared humanist outlook.

Individually, The Limners arrived in Victoria, then a remote British colony of insular gentility, from a world torn asunder by war. Herbert Siebner had been an unwilling conscript into the German army. Richard Ciccimarra, an esthete from Austria, fled after the war to Victoria. Max Bates of Calgary was pursuing a brilliant artistic career in England when hostilities broke out, and almost immediately was taken as a prisoner of war. Robert De Castro was a tank gunner in the Canadian army whose experiences marked his life. Each developed an art expressive of the desire to understand and transform the human condition.

These artists brought to Victoria international art education - from Berlin, Antwerp, New York and Stockholm. Jan and Helga Grove left the national art institute in Istanbul. The new University of Victoria, beginning in 1964, had a magnetic effect. Robin Skelton, poet and bon vivant, with his wife Sylvia arrived from England to found the creative writing department and hosted a literary and philosophical “salon”. The enthusiasm of the community for its new university was matched by the vigorous programming of exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Established in 1951, the gallery was headed by Colin Graham, a graduate of Cambridge and the University of California at Berkeley.

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