A Jewel of Baie St. Paul by Franklin Arbuckle
Above is a photo of an excellent composition of the jewel of Charlevoix County, Baie St. Paul by Franklin Arbuckle. In the absence of a date, judging from the development of Baie St. Paul, or lack thereof, I speculate it from the later years of his Montreal days (1940-58). Views of the region have seduced artists now for over a century and a half. Franklin Arbuckle joins W.H. Clapp, Clarence Gagnon, Randolph Hewton, Fred Hutchison, A.Y. Jackson, Robert Pilot, René Richard, Goodridge Roberts, Henry Sandham, Jori Smith, and Fred Taylor in his appreciation of the vistas that Charlevoix offers.
Franklin Arbuckle, “Archie” as he was addressed by friends, created a body of work over a career spanning 65 years. In the path of the Group of Seven, Archie painted Canada, east to west and north to south, beginning about the time the Group evolved into the larger Canadian Group of Painters. His oeuvre of paintings is a rich interpretation of the beauty of the Canadian landscape.
Arbuckle studied at the Ontario College of Art (O.C.A.) for two years. There, his teachers included J.E.H. MacDonald, Fred S. Haines, J.W. Beatty, Arthur Lismer, and his future father-in-law, Frank H. Johnston. He was awarded scholarships and honours both years, after which the school principal, J.W. Beatty told him that he had all the abilities the school could teach and that he should move forward with his artistic career, not bothering with the conventional third year of study for graduation. Hence, he left the college and in 1930 and opened a studio of his own.
Even though, throughout most of his career, Archie lived in Toronto, he did make Montreal his home for 18 years from 1940. His achievements and awards were numerous. He was a member of the O.S.A., R.C.A., and President of the R.C.A. from 1960 to 1964.
When I knew Archie, he was still teaching at the O.C.A. where he continued long after a conventional retirement age. Archie was known to be an excellent and inspirational art teacher, explaining why the college kept inviting his return. Claude A. Simard, R.C.A., a highly talented artist in his own right and a gentleman that we had the pleasure of representing, had been one of Archie’s students at O.C.A.. He spoke of him with enormous respect and even reverence.
Galerie Walter Klinkhoff held several solo exhibitions for Franklin Arbuckle. It is noteworthy that in our experience, these exhibitions were attended by more artists than any others that we hosted, occurrences that serve as a particularly moving example of the high esteem in which Archie was held by his peers. One distinguished Canadian artist, John Little, usually shy and reclusive, extraordinarily attended Arbuckle’s vernissage for an exhibition we held in 1981 (or maybe it was '82), when he confided to me, "Since the crib, I dreamt of being a Franklin Arbuckle.” It is not coincidental that we have included a photo of our Arbuckle flanked by a fine Little.
Arbuckle's Baie St. Paul hung beside John Little's Patinoire - Lane Behind Rue de Bullion, 1989 at Alan Klinkhoff Gallery in Toronto.
Not only was he an important and influential artist, acclaimed illustrator and art teacher, Archie was also gregarious, such fun to be with, with a great sense of humour. For a number of years, when Archie would visit his Montreal family for the Christmas holidays, his son-in-law, the late Mr. Peter Quinlan, generously invited me to join he and Archie for a lunch at Peter’s University Club of Montreal. My recollections of Archie include a festive celebration in his honour by members of the Arts and Letters Club in Toronto, probably 30 years ago, with the Club’s walls an exhibit of watercolours painted on a recent trip to Italy.
Even the most brief biographical sketch need mention Archie’s wife, Frances-Anne Johnston, a gifted and successful artist in her own right, and her father, founding Group of Seven member Frank Johnston.
There is a credible rumour that there may be a museum exhibition impending combining the work of the three. We look forward to further news.