EDWARD JOHN HUGHES, R.C.A.
Private Collection, British Columbia
Ian Thom, E.J. Hughes, Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver/Toronto, 2002, pages 87, 146 and 148.
1967, the year this work was executed, was a banner year for E.J. Hughes (1913-2007). He was approached to have a solo exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery and was elected an Associate to the Royal Canadian Academy. Mill Bay captures the timelessness that first attracted Montreal dealer Dr. Max Stern to Hughes. Stern was Hughes’ dealer for 35 years, having discovered him quite by chance in the early fifties. Ian Thom quotes Stern as expressing the sense that "Hughes’ rendering of trees, forest and landscapes seemed to bridge time and space for me." Though they only met a few times in person, and their relationship remained quite formal, the two men conducted a robust correspondence and developed a close relationship over time.
Mill Bay is located about eight and a half kilometers east of Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island, where Hughes lived. This work evidences the process for the detailed field sketches that would inform his paintings. Thom writes: "In order for (Hughes) to ensure he would be able to accurately reproduce a scene from a sketch years later, Hughes developed an elaborate system of coded colour notes to enable him to accurately recreate his visual impressions." For example, "RV" indicated red violet or "pm” with the "m" underscored meant pale medium (tending toward medium).
Beautiful but moreover fascinating, field sketches such as these are intriguing to collectors who feel they act as an insightful conduit into an artist's creative process.