Henry J. Simpkins, R.C.A.
Henry Simpkins, like William Winter, was a product of Brigden’s in Winnipeg - a successful centre for graphic arts in western Canada. What a fabulous sensitivity and understanding he had of watercolour and paper! His compositions, like the one exhibited here with the ski hill at Saint-Sauveur, Quebec as the backdrop, show the hand of an illustrator par excellence. Henry, “Hank” as his friends called him, bought his first car in 1931 and drove to the Laurentians regularly to find material for painting. The sugar camps he visited annually for decades and these municipal rinks were among his preferred subject matter, as well as Quebec scene horses, barns and rural landscapes. He has, in my opinion, expertly caught the essence of that outdoor rink in the country setting. This painting in watercolour resembles closest to the experiences we’ve had in the last twenty years on the municipal rink at Mont Tremblant.
Henry J. Simpkins' official artist’s website, which was created and authored by his grandson, states that Simpkins was educated at the Winnipeg School of Fine Art under Franz Johnston and L. L. FitzGerald. Simpkins worked as a commercial artist in London and New York before making his return to Canada where he worked as an illustrator for Grip and Batten.
During his career, Simpkins exhibited at the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and at the Montreal Art Association, where he won the Jessie Dow Prize for watercolour in 1932 and 1934. He was elected an associate member of the Royal Academy of Art in 1936 and became a full member in 1971. Simpkins has exhibited with such notable galleries as Galerie Walter Klinkhoff, Continental Gallery, Masters, Manuge, Wallack, Wallace and The Kennedy Gallery in New York. He was commissioned by the Hudson’s Bay company to do many of their calendars and for Seagram’s as well. According to his grandson, Simpkins’ claim to fame was creating the original Captain Morgan illustration that appears on the rum bottle.
Simpkins was famous for his watercolours, which he produced with fine expertise on account of his background as an illustrator. He also did many paintings in oil. Simpkins worked hard on his paintings of horses, some of his best work according to his grandson. He would follow his granddaughter, Sue, to her horse shows and make sketches and studies of the majestic beasts in his sketch pad, something he never left home without. Simpkins would take many painting trips with his son across Canada - painting various wildlife scenes, boats in the harbor, barns, horses, the Calgary stampede, portraits and everything in between. “Always striving to bring nature to life” was his motto.
Private Collection, Westmount, Quebec.
2016, Galerie Alan Klinkhoff, Toronto-Montreal, Fine Art & Hockey: A Point of View.