Canadian artist Bertram Charles Binning was an important architect and visual artist in Vancouver, who played a major role in bringing attention from the international cultural community to the region. He studied under Frederick Varley at the Vancouver School of Art (now the Emily Carr University of Art and Design), where he later taught.
He was a founder of the Art in Living group in 1946, whose seminal show ‘Design in Living’ was held in 1949 at the Vancouver Art Gallery. He founded the UBC Festival of the Contemporary Arts, and was a co-founder of the department of Fine Art at UBC, where he taught from 1949 to 1974, and served as department head from 1955 to 1968. He was also the Director and Curator of UBC’s Fine Arts Gallery from 1955 to 1968.
Binning’s paintings are internationally recognised and exhibited regularly. His works are composed and formal, yet saturated by leisurely weekends sailing the coast in B.C. with his wife Jessie. Nautical themes were an important subject for him, and the layered, regal, and simple ship forms portray a unique architectural style.
Speaking about ‘Ships in a Classical Calm’ Binning says, “It was in the fall, and I went up the Indian Arm on a little excursion boat, as a matter of fact, and it was just after the war and there were a whole number of ships in one of the coves on the way up there… a whole fleet of World War II ships that had been tied up and now, when you’re a small boat and low to the water, and these great hulks towering above you and these great shapes which to me are terribly impressive, there’s something—I don’t know—about a ship viewed, especially bow on, that has a regalness about it, a real elegance. We passed these going up the Arm, and then coming back home again, and they fascinated me, and there they sat—absolutely still in this calm water and there was something sad about them too in a way…simply sitting there with all their glory stripped from them.”
Binning exhibited widely and was a member of the British Columbia Society of Fine Artists, the Federation of Canadian Artists, the Canadian Society of Graphic Artists, the Canadian Group of Painters and the Royal Canadian Academy.
He won numerous awards during his life, and his work is represented in important public collections including the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Hart House, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Brock Hall Art Collection, the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria in British Columbia.