Born in Scotland, Canadian artist Berthes des Clayes first studied at the Bushey School of Art in England before going on to the Académie Julien in Paris. She lived in London from 1906 to 1912, when she came to Canada and settled in Montreal, setting up a studio in Beaver Hall Square, a favourite haunt for artists and architects.
Travelling in England and France in 1919 and 1920, she then returned to England and lived at Chorleywood before returning to Montreal in 1931, living there until about 1951. Throughout her life, she divided her time between England and Montreal until she died in Devon, England in 1968.
Mainly a landscape painter, des Clayes worked in an impressionistic style, where her fondness for the Canadian landscape inspired her to illustrate two books; “Here and There in Montreal and the Island of Montreal” by Charles W. Stokes, and “Acadia (Nova Scotia)”, published by the Dominion Atlantic Railway.
In ‘Landscape with Horse and Wagon’, des Clayes illustrates a favourite theme of hers; that of the horse and wagon. Winding away along a country road toward a hilly landscape, its view past a blaze of orange foliage is evocative of the rural areas north of Montreal which she and so many others would have been familiar with.
In ‘The Red Sleigh’, des Clayes illustrates another favourite theme; the winter scene, with a horse and sleigh. One can imagine the romance of the era in which trips into the village, visible by its tall church spire in the background, were made in deep snows. Passing charming cottages along the way, announcing your arrival by the jingling of bells was a part of the quintessential Canadian experience wrought in oil and canvas by our nation’s artists.
A winner of the Jessie Dow Prize on two occasions, des Clayes participated in the spring exhibitions of the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, and with the Royal Canadian Academy, where she was elected as an Associate. Berthes des Clayes is represented in numerous public collections including the National Gallery of Canada, the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the University of Calgary, the University of British Columbia and the National Archives of Canada.