-  Conyers Barker  -  Canadian Artist - Catalogue raissone  His Life - Works - Paintings.

 

Georgian Bay. E Conyers Barker

Georgian Bay

 

Ernest Conyers Barker

RCA. OSA. CSPWC. SCA.

Canadian 1909-2003

 

Ernest Conyers Barker Mother Earth

Mother Earth

 

Photo by Peter Northcott 

 

 

 

A  Biography & Raissone

By David Freeman

(Art Works and Images Follow Below Text )

 

 

 

 

 PREFACE.

 

  If you tried to define Conyers in a word, then Conyers was spirit.

 The greatness in a man could be defined as a measure of his achievement, his worldly role, his successes and the heights to which he aspired and rose.

But in Conyers Barker, the mountains he conquered, were far more private.

 Conyers was no fashionable writer, great orator or leader, he was just a motivated and gifted individual who worked hard at his craft all his life, believed in himself, loved life, his God and his fellow man above all.
This is his story.

 Conyers never wanted to be remembered as a great man. He was far too modest for that. Of course he was ambitious and strove to achieve success in his life. After all it's in the very nature of an artist to succeed.
Yet walk into a room where he sat and whether he wanted it or not, didn't matter. You knew you were in the presence of a great man.

 

 

 

 

Conyers and Ina Barker

 

  We were more than privileged to know and love both Conyers and Ina well during our years in Barrie. More surrogate grandparents than mere friends, they embraced us with hearts, not just open arms.

 I first met the man in an early painting of his at the Barrie Art Club. I think he hung somewhere between the 'Old Barn' by A.J.Casson and Doris MacCarthey's enormous abstract of Georgian Bay. It was a modest first meeting, a simple and quite unastonishing watercolour landscape entitled 'Fall Timbers", that reflected his absolute admiration and belief in the group of seven. The artist in it did not shine, he just glowed a little, like torch left on overnight, but with a hint of what was to come.

 The second meeting came after a phone call from a friend of his at the CSPWC. Could I spare the time to come and look at a Flemish portrait he'd been left by his father? Of course  I could.

 We drove to their little bungalow on Shakespeare Crescent in Letitia Heights to be met by the sweetest Scottish lilt announcing she was coming to the door. Ushered through the porch into the lounge he sat in the chair that he loved and lived in for the rest of his life. His lap covered with a crocheted shawl, bright red knee length socks emphasizing, but not hiding his steel leg brace and built up shoe.
Conyers was simply, 'holding court' over hundreds of his framed watercolours and paintings, drawings, sketches, scribbles and daubs. They seemed to cover every inch of the lounge. Floor and walls.

 Ahead we'd spend many an afternoon together with Conyers, listening enraptured to stories of forgotten treasures discovered on our roadshow tours. He laughed until he cried at stories of dozens of stripped and bonded Frank Moss Bennet canvas prints, all antique would be 'paintings', from Simpsons and Eatons in the 60's, that every Grandma swore were legit.

Full of delight as they talked us into buying yet another Conyers original, for far too much. They were convinced that Conyers would be more famous than A. Y. Jackson one day... and we didn't mind a bit.  In our eyes and in many others, I'm sure he is just as famous and maybe one day will be even more so? 

 

* * *

 

 His photo says it all, because life can be cruel. Polio striking him down as a boy and still actively painting well into his celebrated nineties, the worst thing that can happen to an artist did. Tunnel vision with blindness finally overtaking him in the year before he died, left him only his dreams and memories and his beloved Ina by his side.

 

Conyers Barker PHOTO

Conyers Barker 'The Seeing Mind'

  Conyers would spend hours recounting his life. But by now he was both weak and tired, yet promised to reveal all he knew about what really happened to his hero Tom Tomson using the new cassette tape recorder he'd been given. He could no longer see to write.

"I was up at Lake Canoe at summer camp," he told me in hushed tones!

 The gal with what he was convinced was an Aussie accent, a very much adopted ban-ogha called Jackie, sat by his side at the RVH in Barrie that cold December night when he gently passed.

 I returned to the hospital with Ina in the snow after getting the call, having driven her home to the bungalow in Letitia to get some well deserved rest and a bite to eat, only an hour before.

 She turned off the light, kissed his forehead and sat with him gently stroking his hand.

 

 

 

 A few days later, having a cuppa tea with the gentlest and sweetest Scottish lassie I'd ever met, she disappeared into the bedroom and came out with a carrier bag. "I think Conyers wanted you to have this," she said.

In it, the black plastic Cassio, start button pressed down and locked in place.

 I didn't listen to it until the following morning, wondering what amazing things Ernie would finally reveal to the world? A fresh new C90 was set in place and wound to its end which was promising and with a whole three quarters of an hour for him to talk too, he'd certainly had a go, The batteries were flat, so he must have.

 Now one in place and rewound,  I sat listening intently from the start, turning up the volume, just in case his voice was a little too quiet.  Not faint though, it just wasn't there at all.

Conyers had pressed Start, but obviously not held RECORD down at the same time.

 I still have several hours of Conyers tapes at home and still the completely empty one. One that would have undoubtedly held the earth shattering revelations he'd intended to share with the world.

But he'd have only been eight when he was at summer camp.

 

Conyers Barker PHOTO

The Last Photograph of Conyers

© Jackie Freeman

 

 

E.Conyers Barker

RCA. OSA. CSPWC. SCA. - Canadian 1909-2003

Signed: Ernie Barker, Ernest Barker, E.C Barker, E. Conyers Barker & Conyers Barker - ECB

 

Conyers Barker PHOTO GROUP OF SEVEN

 

 

 A very young Ernie - 'Conyers' Barker slouches on the far right of this early photograph taken by Charles Comfort back in 1932.

The venue was in the Library of the Grange, at a CSPWC meeting (Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolours) which was founded in 1925 by some of the most illustrious artists in Canadian art history. These were the early days when there was only a handful of members.

 Conyers is pictured here with Joachim Gauthier, the President of the society, Franklin Carmichael, A. J Casson and Tom MacLean.

Charles Comfort who took the photograph, was himself to become President of the society in 1950.

 The CSPWC founders were: F.H. Brigden, A.J. Casson, Franklin Carmichael, C.W. Jefferys, Fred S. Haines, L.A.C. Panton, R.F. Gagen, Thomas G. Greene, Robert Holmes, Franz Johnston, Andre Lapine and E.J. Sampson. With both Brigden and Panton formally tutoring Conyers in his art.

 A friend of the great artist Franklin Carmichael, mentored by Joachim Gauthier, Tom MacLean, A.J.Casson and Franz Johnston, Conyers Barker was affectionately labled 'the Horizontal Boy' early in his artistic career by dorians of the art world and distinguished members of the Group of Seven, who were equally intrigued and puzzled by the linear stratum which he introduced into his painting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Biographical Summary of the life of: E. Conyers Barker

Taken from his biography by David Freeman

  Ernest Conyers Barker was born in Toronto-18th March 1909 and died in  Barrie Ontario on the evening of the 5th. December 2003.

  Conyers Barker was a fine Canadian representational artist, best known for his landscapes in watercolour, oils and acrylics, painting the varied, wild and distinctive landscapes of the Canada he loved.

 He was a significant, well loved and respected member of the Canadian art scene for many years and exhibited widely and yet Conyers wasn't to make the headlines, nor attain the dizzy heights of his mentors within the Group of Seven he knew so well, nor to ever receive the critical acclaim that he clearly deserved as an artist. Not at least until much later in his life.

Conyers Barker PHOTO
 

Conyers Barker

Sketching in Algonquin Park in 1929

 

Portrait of the artists father

Charles Barker, 1924

11 x 15 " Signed E Barker Top right

Drawn at 15 years of age

  Conyers Barker, who was known simply as Ernie Barker back then, was born in Toronto in 1909. The middle of three children of Charles Barker, a British émigré who was in Conyers eyes a learned man who knew Latin and algebra, yet was frequently out of work and a frustrated amateur artist himself. His mother was Gertrude, whose father had been killed in a Tavern brawl. She was employed as a dresser at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, but had been illiterate since a child, yet had the uncanny knack of being able to play the piano beautifully without reading a note, so Conyers recalled.

 

Copy of watercolour

 

 At the age of 11, Conyers broke his arm badly whilst skipping with the girls in the playground at school and had to spend two months at home in a cast. It took two operations to repair the fracture. But spurred on by his father, self tutoring him at home, he began to study landscape paintings made by a man called Willy Drake, then a well known set painter at the theatre where his mother worked and he was prompted to assiduously copy them in watercolour.

 Often accompanying his father to the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario) he developed a keen interest in art and was especially drawn to the vitality of the early works of the group of seven.

So with a fresh insight and a brand new interest, Conyers began his studies in art, enrolling at the Central Technical School, alongside Tom Roberts, York Wilson and Jean Dallaire. The place had a fine reputation for teaching the subject. Which is not surprising, with tutors like Lawrence Panton, Alfred Howell, Bernard Coghill and Peter Haworth, a fine watercolourist as mentors. Latterly Conyers schooled under the acclaimed Canadian landscape artist Frederick Henry Brigden at the old Ontario School of Art.

 

The earliest image of Conyers Barker ,drawn by James Milton Hanes. Signed and dated 26.

 

 Above: Inscr. Plate 1. September 17.1924. Sig. E Barker.

Watercolour Still life. Conyers at the Central Technical

School. He would have been 15.

 

 

Sig. Ernest Barker A4 May 27.27

Life drawing in bistre.

 

 

 

 Conyers graduated in June of 1927 from art school at the age of eighteen and of course did sketches all through the summer time, watercolours entirely, as he searched in vain for work as a graphic artist. With no vacancies anywhere in Toronto, he became a commercial artist doing photographic re-touching, being paid eight dollars a week for British & Colonial Press and Batton Limited when the firm was taken over. It was here that he worked alongside a British artist called Reg Capel, who was ultra critical of Conyers unique and nonconformist style and not at all appreciative. However both he and Conyers' boss taught him to concentrate harder on his retouching work and to not overlook anything that could improve the work and that was to have a profound effect on his painting, always looking to improve what he'd done and not overlooking anything important to him.

 At 17, Conyers had won a competition to exhibit at the Art Gallery of Toronto.

 

 

 

 

* * *

 

 

Conyers Barker PHOTO

Conyers Barker
An Agonquin painting trip in the 20's

  Typically, Conyers always had done and always did do his own thing, never conforming to the norm in the shadowy days of his struggling early career. Then very much painting in the manner of the Canadian Group of Seven, much as the art world demanded and not painting what others around him thought or told him he should paint. He was to develop a unique style that extracted only the essentials. The shapes and colours from the landscapes he favoured. But as a result, he sold barely enough to live on and often went hungry.

 Despite the crippling disabilities he suffered daily as a result of contracting polio as an infant and suffering constant bullying at school, Conyers worked assiduously throughout his life, especially up in the Northern Ontario woods, wetlands and forests of Algonquin Park. Following in the footsteps of his boyhood hero and earliest artistic influence, the great Tom Tomson. 

His leg iron wouldn't stop him and to Conyers, the shorter leg was just a hindrance.

Always the free spirit, he would drive into the wilds alone, often for days at a time with the help of a trusty block of spruce wood lashed to the accelerator of his old Ford car and learning to brake, sometimes the hard way, with the other foot. This was a classic Conyers invention, compensating for the shortness of his polio stricken leg.

 The artwork he produced flowed and his independence shone as he always did and it would to the end.

 Yet Conyers' principal ambition, particularly during his middle years, was to become the finest abstract artist in Canada but this too was not to materialise. Primarily this has to be put down to the development of his new distinctive style of realism which overtook him with a passion. It is this unique quality in his painting that brought him at last some long deserved commercial success and a little public recognition but that was late in a career as an individualist.

 By the fall of 1928, Conyers was working hard at his job and painting all weekend, but by now going out with other artists such as Richard Walter Major whose criticism of his work he did accept.

It was now that Conyers started painting seriously in oils for the first time.

 

 

 

 

  By the spring of 1930 Conyers was slowly getting into a rut with his job, so with the money he'd saved, he decided to go up north again and spend three months sketching. Renting a canoe, his favourite pastime, he packed up his tent and cooking equipment, loaded up the Ford and set off for Hollow Lake in Haliburton, painting most every day in his new and exciting medium.

 

  On his return to Toronto he teamed up with four other graphic artists he'd got to know whilst at Batton's, as they had suggested he did some freelance graphic work and use part of their studio and office space situated on the corner of College and Bay street in Toronto.

One of Conyers first jobs was to design a chocolate bar wrapper, then making illustrations for the Salvation Army children’s papers and that got him into the Sunday School papers for the United Church - Horizon Press in the 1930`s.

This though too was short lived as his illustrations were so dramatic that one of the editors, a Miss Swinerton told Conyers that she didn't have any more work for him... and the reason? He'd over powered the stories with his illustrations!


 

 

* * *

 

 

Some notoriety but not yet fame.

Conyers Barker was elected to the CSPWC

 

 In November 1931, Conyers Barker was elected to the distinguished Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour.

 Sponsored by Lawrence Arthur Colley Panton O.S.A., R.C.A. (1894-1954), his old tutor, Conyers submitted a large painting of an old abandoned mill on the Rouge River with the interior and the scenery in disarray, (Long lost) along with another 3 or 4 smaller works to the committee, comprising of F.H. Brigdon, A.J.Casson, Arthur Lismer and Tom Maclean. (Thomas Wesley. McLean 1881-1951 CSPWC MSA)

 

 

Arthur Lismer OC

(1885 – 1969)

Alfred Joseph Casson, (A.J.) Casson

OC.RCA OSA CSPWC CGP

(1898 – 1992)

L A C Panton O.S.A., R.C.A.

(1894-1954)

Frederick Henry Brigden

RCA OSA CSGA CSPWC (1871-1956)

Tom W Maclean CSPWC MSA

 

 

 

 

 

  Sometime during 1935, Conyers met a girl named Rosanna White and had a year long romance, but then met Margaret Mudge who he later married on June 17th 1937. Honeymooning briefly in the Muskoka lakes, Conyers did the obvious and went off sketching and painting again. They returned to Toronto and borrowed a car from her father and set off to Virgil in Niagara on the Lake to stay with friends.

 It was at this time that Conyers first read a book by Reginald Howard Wilenski, an English painter, art historian and art critic known for his book the Modern Movement in Art (1927).This was to have a profound effect upon both Conyers and his painting.

Newly introduced to artists like Cezanne, Gris, van Gogh and Matisse in this way, Conyers at last realised that the cocoon of art he was trapped in, governed entirely by an inescapable appreciation of the Group of Seven, was entirely wrong. He should and could be individual.

In Conyers own words, "That was a turning point in my whole work concept."

 

 

 Concentrating mainly on oil paintings during this time, he was producing stronger, quite realistic images, but found them burdensome and too traditional. On one occasion when painting an old elm tree and dissatisfied with the traditional rendition, he scraped it out, but the image didn't disappear from the artists board, so he created an abstract in its place. Something unique had happened.

 

There was a change coming in other ways too.

 

 Dominated by her mother and somewhat difficult to handle, Conyers told me that his wife Margaret visited the downtown studio one day from their apartment and decided to have a bath, delivering a chilling ultimatum.

"If we don’t go to the country and live, I will go out in the street just like this, naked"  she said.  So Conyers lost not only the war to stay in Toronto, but lost that battle too.

 Collecting as many paintings together as he could, he held a dollar apiece sale and raised $115.00. That's about seventeen hundred dollars by today's standards and back then, that was quite a nest egg. 

 So Conyers and Margaret moved up to Kings city near Schomberg and occupied a house that her sister and husband had rented from the Jarvis family on the Jarvis estate, called Jarver creek, where they lived for about a year.

Sadly the marriage was not to last more than 2 years and much, much later, it was finally dissolved.

 

Jarvacres, Jarvis Estate, King City, 1939, by Ernest Conyers Barker
Oil on panel

 

 

 The fact his marriage broke up was a very traumatic time for Conyers. He was struggling with feelings that he was no good as an artist and no good as a man either. He told me he just drifted along and didn't do any interesting work at all and did no painting whatsoever.

  Two years on and seeking relief from the unhappy marriage he'd had with Margaret, Conyers created his 'Nirvana' paintings, describing his approach in an interview with the Globe and Mail in 1975 thus:

 

"I cut the sky out entirely and extracted only the essentials shapes and colours from the landscape.

I was trying to be quiet and peaceful, but I wasn't free."

 

 

 

Cemetery, Port Dalhousie, Ontario.

Oil on board -signed lower right; dated “July 1939” and signed and inscribed “The cemetery by the Canal at Port Dalhousie"

E C Barker

 

* * *

 

 

 Conyers moved back to Toronto to his parents home, only getting an occasional job in an engraving house, drawing various objects for a catalogue, so he made a meagre living trying to work as an artist or designer, until one day he was offered a job doing woodcraft operating a jigsaw, making packing components for freight boxes to house ammunition and shells for shipping to the war in Europe.

 Moving from there was bliss. Conyers was employed for two years as a teacher of woodcraft, design and painting at the Colonies Boys Club at the old Trinity College on Queens Street, which he thoroughly enjoyed. It was after all the art he loved.

 

 

Conyers sketching in Algonquin park.

 

 

  Bill Saxton an old artist friend, suggested to Conyers that he got a more reliable job alongside him working at the United Steel Corporation in the west of Toronto, as they were recruiting.

USC were making machinery at the time also for the war effort which was being shipped to Russia, so photographs of the products they were manufacturing had to be re-touched professionally and life turned full circle again for Conyers.

  Bill had told him that he had been attending a night class in Metaphysics in Toronto at  110, Oakwood Avenue and there was a wonderful teacher there called Doctor Harold Saint Nicholas Cartier, a talented black pianist and composer from Jamaica.   Bill said it would be good for Conyers to mix with new people.

So Conyers went with him one Sunday night and began to attended the meetings regularly, even asked to illustrate a choral piece that Dr. Cartier had written called Brittanic Heroic: Subtitled, 'Grand fantasy on the battle of Britain.'

It comprised of a picture of Britannia in the middle with a lion pouncing on a tiger. The tiger representing Hitler and the lion representing Britain. Naturally, Conyers obliged.

 

 

 

 

  Margaret Baker, who he met at one of the Metaphysical groups picnics then came into his life.

A new love with two daughters of her own, Dr Cartier was not impressed or pleased that Conyers was 'walking out' with her and that they were both missing classes, or being late for them making him stop his oratory. For reasons best known to himself, the orator started to become more and more intimidating, where it got to the point that Conyers felt he even was afraid to take a glass of water without his permission.

Conyers had finally had enough.

 One evening, he had his father drive him up to Oakwood avenue where the meeting was in full swing, unloaded the painting from the car, put it on the verandah and went inside.

When the meeting was over Conyers went up to the man and said. "Your painting's outside"

"I'm leaving your class" and left .

 Conyers told me that just maybe he might have been a little louder than usual but it seemed to work as it was like bombshell going off, with Doctor Carter, obviously embarrassed in front of his captive audience, quite taken aback and with the the room now totally silent, said and did nothing.

The house on Oakwood Avenue

 

 

 The relationship with Margaret flourished and Conyers visited her apartment on Huron Street regularly, cooking dinner for her and the girls.

It was at her suggestion that Conyers applied for a more fitting job for his talent, working at Imperial Oil as a designer in the advertising and printing department. It was a job in which he was successful and he would be ultimately transferred to the safety department, making posters, letter size for all the programs that the firm had instituted.

For the first time in his life Conyers was earning a good salary and Margaret moved in with him permanently.

 

 At that time, Conyers lived about four doors away from his parents in an old office building which he had partially converted into a studio and living quarters. It was here that they decided to buy a property of about 8 acres, some 5 miles outside of Stayner and Margaret moved in there while Conyers stayed on in Toronto at the studio and worked at Imperial oil, commuting north at the weekend by train.

But something dark was looming.

 He had no idea why, excepting it was really all his own fault that bad feelings developed between Conyers and his father.

Starting ridiculously, as these things so often do and with no real rhyme or reason, one morning Charles came to pick up his car from the studio driveway where it was always parked. Conyers greeted his increasingly difficult father with his usual chirpy "Good morning Dad" but the old man just kept his head down and ignored him completely. Conyers took offence that he was in such a bad mood and instead of pressing on to see what the problem was, it was ignored. Conyers went to work and never spoke to him again.

The close proximity to his parent house got much too much for him and he left Toronto.

 

 With little money, Conyers Barker gave up a perfectly good job and moved to Stayner and Margaret. He worked his land and took any work he could. At first making a sparse living doing sign writing for shop windows and painting advertisement above the stores, even painting the sides of vans, the first being a bakers wagon. He told me, "all I had was five dollars and the materials cost me that !"

But he hated the work. In his own words it felt as though if he painted any more vans he'd die as he wrestled with the fact that he might even be schizophrenic. His behaviour was such that he tore up a lot of good work because he felt he had become mentally unbalanced.

So between 1946 to 1952 Conyers now permanently living in Stayner, did no painting at all.

 Conyers also had to live with the fact that he never knew that his father was so ill, it was true he'd smoked too much during his life, but took to drinking heavily in his sickening years,quickly going down hill. At 72, he suddenly died. No one told Conyers and he never went to the funeral.

 

 

* * *

 

 In about 1952 however, Conyers was approached by a friend and began teaching art at evening classes in nearby Collingwood at the Collingwood District Institute of Art. The same year, he finally resumed his own painting. Telling the Globe and Mail:

"Painting is a life force you just can't contain. Creating the picture is all that matters."

He'd found himself again.

 

 

 

 

 

 Conyers had by now joined the Simcoe County Recreation Club, where groups of amateur artists and writers met and went away on working trips together and experienced a new lease of life.

It was here that he first met Isabel Holland, a telegraph operator for the railway in Capreol near Sudbury. She told Conyers that the Capreol hotel was looking for someone to paint a mural for them and this was to be his first large scale painting. A 4 x 8 foot oil of an autumn landscape with a moose for which he was paid a handsome sum of $50.00. A second was commissioned in Sudbury as a result and another in Montreal and Conyers returned to the farm.

 

Old Capreol Hotel

 

 

 But the relationship with Margaret was never to be the same and was deteriorating fast. Conyers felt guilty that he had felt the way he had about Isabel Holland whilst up in Sudbury and that things just wouldn't be the same between them,  so Conyers left, fearful for his own mental health, bought a barn for $300.00 behind an old house that a widow was selling, with running water but little else. Yet it was somewhere at least he could escape to continue his work in.

 

 

* * *

 

 

Conyers Barker (Ernie) Television:

  It was at this new low point in Conyers life that he was commissioned by Hanna Motors who were in Stayner at this time. They wanted him to make some signage for them based on an image of their owner, Doug Hanna, sitting in an old rocking chair.

 CKVR TV in Barrie, a station back then in its infancy, had been promoting the car company in their TV advertisements and Conyers was invited to meet the company directors at the TV station to discuss the work.

 It was here he first met the CKVR art director Frank Fog, a Danish artist who was to employ Conyers at the TV station for the next decade until he was 60 and retired.

Barrie became Conyers home town, where he worked and lived throughout the 1950's as an illustrator and commercial artist for the vibrant young Canadian television station. He created advertising illustrations and program credits for televising such as these gems below.

He loved it there.

 

 

Channel logo
Gouache on card 7 x 6.5 max
11 x 8" Gouache on purple card
TARZAN Title credits 14 x 11" 0n grey card
End credit 11.5 x 8.5 on card

 

 These rare examples of Conyers graphic work were discovered in a folder marked © Conyers Barker in drawer in his basement studio after his death.

 

 

 

 

Hughina McGowan

Portrait of the artists wife - Ina Barker,

made at Illahee State Park, Washington.

Pencil on Paper 8 1/2 x 11. Inscr.

Prov: Direct from artists studio 2003

 

 

 

Ina Drawing at 4897 SE Capstan Avenue

Stuart. Florida March 1990

 

 His marriage to Hughina (Ina) McGowan in 1964, a perfect tiny Scottish lady brought happiness and stability to Conyers Barker's life and the nineteen seventies at last brought commercial success to his art.

 Ina had been working at a high class fashion studio in Toronto, called Creeds the furriers and her friends had told her that if she ever had the chance to go to the Royal Alexander Theatre in Toronto, it was a social must. Now completely refurbished and redecorated it was glorious. Then came a twist of fate. Whilst working at CKVR, the president Ralph Snelgrove, offered Conyers some tickets for a show at the Royal Alexander, the most famous of all theatres in Toronto. A comedy revue starring Jackie Mason and Billy Daniels. A mutual friend had introduced Conyers to Ina and Conyers asked her if she would like to go. She obviously jumped at the chance and the rest is history.

 Ina completely changed his life and he began painting more industrially with his watercolours.

 

 

 

 In December 1975, Conyers got ahuge break and met the successful gallery owner Olga Korper, who put on a retrospective show of his works at Gallery O, now called the Olga Korper Gallery, then situated on Markham street in Toronto and it almost sold out, making $19,500.00.

 

 "Some of the paintings were from the twenties and thirties," said Ms. Korper, the gallery's owner in an interview of the day. "They had one foot in the contemporary world and one foot in traditional painting.... They were very experimental and progressive in many ways.

 

 In an explication that accompanied the show, Conyers Barker described an experience while painting himself:

 

"I felt that I was only holding the brush and that an unseen power was painting the trees for me."


  The retrospective was one of several shows over the next few years held at Gallery O and this led to many more exhibitions, including participation in group shows at Harbour front in Toronto, the Guild Gallery in Calgary and the Montreal Museum of Fine Art and also solo shows in Toronto and Florida.


The Curator from the Art Gallery of Ontario then bought an abstract for the gallery, so Conyers gave the AGO a small watercolour called 'The Rouge River, east of Toronto.'

 

"Geometric Abstraction" Artist: E. Conyers Barker

(Canadian, 1909 - 2003)

Date: 1938 Medium: oil on board

Credit: The AGO: Purchase, 1975

 

 

 Conyers admitted that during the turmoil years, he had certainly lost ground and also felt he had lost belief in himself. That his interpretations had become old fashioned and very uninspiring in his own view.


  But there was a show to be held at this time at the National Gallery in Ottawa they were going to also show it over in Britain. So Conyers set to, busily doing work on the weekend, but, fate stepped in again and they wouldn't be accepted.

Although Conyers had been painting for over fifty years, it seemed he hadn’t found that something he'd been looking for, until Conyers and Ina went down to Barbados and he did ten paintings of the Caribbean Sea. (1977)

Here there was a real revelation:

 Conyers said that he was just gazing at the sea in Barbados and had an epiphany. There were bars of colour receding to the horizon. So instead of recreating the scene in his traditional, realistic manner, he painted it in horizontal bands.

 

Barbados: Watercolour. 1977

Conyers Barker

Exh MacClaren Arts Centre

Retrospective: December 2, 2017 – March 4, 2018

Barbados 3

Pastel on ingres paper. Sig Conyers 1977

 

 

 

 Conyers felt that, that very fact seemed to release the spark that had been buried for such a long time and he came alive.

The paintings he had created in the previous fifty years were in many ways interesting to him, but this was all new. Earlier in the 1970’s he had started to paint abstracts and even tried his hand at doing some scatter work. Partly influenced by Jackson Pollock.

 

 

 

     

 

 On his return to Barrie where he now lived, Conyers visited the vegetable growing areas around the Holland Marsh near Bradford Ontario, and painted there for a month or so.

 They then made a road trip the Prairies in the west and on to Vancouver Island with the same theme of the high horizon, or just a small amount of horizon and a lot of landscape.

Conyers said; "That was when I really found myself and it really influenced my interpretation of a lot of landscape paintings I did after that.

 

       
       

 

 

The Holland Marshes.    

Cabbage Patch - Holland Marsh.

Watercolour and body colour on paper

Signed Bottom Right - Conyers Barker

 

Ploughed fields Holland Marsh

Watercolour and body colour on paper

Signed Bottom Right - Conyers Barker 1979

 

Starting the planting. Holland Marsh

Starting the planting. Holland Marsh

Watercolour and body colour on paper

Signed Bottom Right - Conyers Barker

 

 

E.Conyers Barker Rainclouds Holland Marsh

Rain clouds over Holland Marsh

(Near Bradford Ontario)
Painted late in the Autumn, 1991

Inscribed and signed verso.

Watercolour on paper

10 1/4 x  7 1/2 " 260 x 194 mm.(approx)

 

Planting fields Holland Marsh

(Near Bradford Ontario) Painted late in the Autumn, 1991 Sig, dated BR

 

 

View over the Holland marsh- Signed Bottom Right - Conyers Barker Watercolour

Holland Marsh E.Conyers Barker

Summer on the Holland Marsh. 1979

Conyers Barker

 

Rain: Oro-Medonte

Vegetable Sheds Holland marsh Conyers Barker

Vegetable Sheds, Holland Marsh.

Watercolour

Spring Thaw on the Holland Marsh. Watercolour

 

     

 

 

 

Manitoba Trip:  
ERNEST CONYERS BARKER
Manitoba watercolour
signed and dated 1979 lower right

Barns on the Prairies

ERNEST CONYERS BARKER Manitoba a watercolour signed and dated 1979 lower right

Manitoba Wheat fields 1979

E. Conyers Barker

 

 

 

The Self Portraits:    

Conyers Barker Aself portrait

 

Conyers Barker

Oil on  board Circa 1930

Unfinished Self Portrait

Oil on wood C 1940

Conyers Barker

A self portrait on paper C 1944

Self portrait in silhouette

Ink on paper. Conyers Barker

     

 

 

Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee  

 

 Presented to HM Queen Elizabeth II by the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour in 1986, was a juried water colour painted by Conyers called, “Overlooking Cookeʼs Bay, Lake Simcoe, Ontario”, RCIN 926162. A view across snow-covered fields to building and hills beyond. A landscape made up of strips of graduated colour. Signed  lower left, which was taken into the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle.

 Conyers was a proud, proud man and Ina was understandably over the moon !

At last he had arrived.

 


CSPWC Presentation to the Queen  1986.

 

 

Travelling extensively throughout Canada during his life, particularly to the Prairie Provinces and the Maritimes, intrepid explorer Conyers had also painted in Florida, the Caribbean and the Dominican Republic and 'over the pond' as he called it, in Scotland which he visited with beloved Ina and on to Wales and England.

 

Conyers Barker - Smallest Painting, 1" x 3/4"

Pine Trees Lake of Bays District
E. Conyers Barker
Oil on wood. A miniature painting presented as a brooch with clasp.
Style of Miniaturist Willard Morse Mitchell

 

 

 

 

 

Other original works of art by E. Conyers Barker:

Not in chronological order;

 

 We are grateful to the owners and collectors of Conyers Barker paintings from around the world who have contacted me and are allowing us to display them on this ever growing site cataloguing his works.

 

If you have a Conyers Barker painting, please contact us. We will be delighted to hear from you as we are currently compiling a catalogue raissone of his works.

CONTACT US ;  conyers  @  freemanart.ca


Conyers on March 18th.1984 on the

occasion of his seventy fifth birthday

 

 

Toronto Skyline from Cherry st.

OOB. Dated 28.

 

Gods Country: E.Conyers Barker

Gods Country:  E.Conyers Barker

Watercolour and bodycolour on paper

Signed Bottom Right - Conyers Barker

19 1/4 " x 13 1/4 " (490 x 336) approx.

Inscribed verso.  

Lone pine. Conyers Barker

Lone Pine

Watercolour


 

E.Conyers Barker Algonquin trail

 


Ernest Conyers Barker DON RIVER,

YORK MILLS, 1979 Oil on panel

Afternoon Siesta Water Colour 22 by 30 in

E.Conyers Barker

An Algonquin Trail

6 x 12" Oil on card

 

Simcoe County snow: E.Conyers Barker

Ernest Conyers Barker NOVEMBER

FIELDS, KING TWP, 1938 Oil on panel.

Two very odd paintings for Conyers and almost out of place.

 

November, The Peaceful Land - oil on panel Ontario Society of Artists 67th Annual Exhibition, 1939. Conyers Barker

"Snow over Simcoe County" Conyers Barker

Edge of Forest Conyers Barker

Edge of the forest

Signed bottom right  Watercolour

The big push - Lake Ice on lake Simcoe.

Watercolour. Signed \B Left E Conyers barker
On Very heavy duty paper

Manatoulin Island #2 - 78

Oil on Canvas Sig. label verso

Lake Temagami,#2 of 3 watercolours

painted on large paper of the same subject

Two Pines Insc, verso, North Wood, Medonte Township sig Conyers Barker. Oil on masonite
     
 

Ice Rainbows Collingwood

watercolour 17 x 24" on Arches

Conyers Barker

Simcoe ice melt. Inscr. 19 x 12" Signed E Conyers Barker, watercolour on heavy duty paper
 

 

 

E.Conyers Barker algonquin stream

An Algonquin Stream - 31 This oil on board is in New Zealand

E Conyers Barker. OOB. Geraniums

                                  

                                       Conyers meets Vincent

 

 

Floral oil on board

Barrie waterfront

   

                                                                                          Toronto Street Barrie. Signed Conyers Barker pen and ink

Hamner north of Capreol 1956 #2 pen and ink. inscr.

 

Barrie waterfront Conyers Barker

RVH Royal Victoria Hospital 1972.

Pen and ink. 13 x 11 "

Signed Conyers Barker.

 

 

 

Early paintings 

 

Still life. Pastel

Tree by a lake. Conyers Barker

Watercolour

 
 

Ernest Conyers Barker West Hill

Ernest Conyers Barker

West Hill 1929 ORO-

Oil on board.

 

 

Ernest Conyers Barker
Spring West Hill, ORO 1929

Oil on Canvas board

Ernest Conyers Barker

Ernest Conyers Barker

1929

Oil on Canvas board

E.Conyers Barker CN snow blower

CN Snow blower
Pencil Sketch

 

Ernest Conyers Barker

Ernest Conyers Barker

'Sanctuary'
Oil on canvas board.

"The Old Docherty House 4th Concession - Nottawasaga"

 

Watercolour 1953 The Grist Mill Cheltenham Ontario

 

Jarv Acres 1939 Jarvis Estate.

King City 1939. Oil on Panel

 

Rocky Shore Pencil, ink and mixed media on paper. Signed lower right

Craigleith Oil on Board
Blue Pines OOB
Barrie Pen and Ink Wash
Barns watercolour
       
       
       

"C.N.R. Station 'La forest' - north of Capreol, Ontario, August 1956. Steam locomotive getting water from tower. E. Conyers Barker."

ERNEST CONYERS BARKER
Harbour Scene watercolour
signed and dated 1928

 Conyers Barker's works of art fall in to quite specific chronological categories They range from the atypical 'early works' of the time frame, aka., Group of Seven influenced oils, to the period when he was seeking his own new evolution.

It takes us through the rare new cubism and abstractionist periods to the travelling times in Florida, the Dominican Republic, Europe, the barns and finally to the Horizontals.

     
E.Conyers Barker Blue Mountains Collingwood
E.Conyers Barker Pines
Ernest Conyers Barker, Vermilion River, Near Capreol, Ontari

Lake of Bays

Conyers Barker

13 1/2 x  9

Watercolour

Towards the Blue Mountains, September

Conyers Barker

Watercolour with pen and ink

10 1/4 x  7 1/2 " 260 x 194 mm.(approx)

 

Eight Pines

Watercolour

 

Patchwork Pastures ~1

Watercolour. 87

Patchwork ~2

Watercolour 87

 

Conyers Barker painting

Meadowlands

Watercolour

At Clear Lake initialled ECB Signed verso and titled. 87

View through the forest

Watercolour on Arches.

Initialled CB

Study of trees from a sketch pad

15 x 11"

The Road. Watercolour on

Arches  17 x 8"

Abstratc landscape 13 x 10

Pastel & crayon on thin paper

Signed Conyers Barker

   

 

Lake and Landscapes in watercolour.

 

 

 

 

 Conyers painted many works in the areas surrounding the Holland Marsh and Holland Landing near Bradford, Ontario.

They are fresh and quite captivating images.

Manatoulin Island  Conyers Barker

Manatoulin Island

Watercolour

Elk Lake Road Conyers Barker 

Elk Lake Road
            Watercolour         

West Near Stayner. watercolour and bodycolour with pen and ink

 

Coyers barker Corn

Corn showing through.

Watercolour

Conyers Barker Fairy Lake

Shallows-Fairy Lake

Oil pastel painting

 

Conyers Barker Blue mountain Collingwood looking east.

Grey Lake Conyers Barker

Gray Lake

Watercolour
                   

Lake Temagami Conyers Barker

Lake Temagami (4 known)

Watercolours

       
Dorset Water Colour sig Conyers Barker

Watercolour sig Conyers Barker

River Rapids watercolour

Watercolour Conyers Barker

Shoreline lake of bays

Autumn approaching Caledon Hills 1929 W Col

sig Conyers Barker

       
Watercolour sig Conyers Barker Muskoka Watercolour sig Conyers Barker

Lake of 2 rivers OOB Signed

Conyers Barker

Old Church. Watercolour

Lake studies signed

Conyers Barker

Crayon

     

 

 

The Barns:

Barns and old farm buildings were a particular delight to Conyers Barker and often feature in his works.

 

   
Barns near Stroud Conyers Barker

 

Vespra Conyers Barker

Blue Barn Conyers Barker
Wilhemina Conyers Barker

Barns near Stroud, Ontario October 1991

Inscribed and signed verso & Signed bottom right .Watercolour on paper
10 1/4 x  7 1/2 "  260 x 194

 

12 th Line / Vespra

Drawing in ink.

One of Conyers most celebrated paintings was Blue Barn

There were very few limited edition prints made during his life, but here is one of the best.

24 x 18"

Signed: Limited Edition Lithograph

Wilhemina

Pencil with watercolour washes

Barn Watercolour

 

 

Conyers Barker:

Red Roof Barn -11th Line Innisfil Nr Barrie Ontario.
Exhibited CSPW Ont. July 1986.

 

 

 

 

Yonge Street barn.

Signed pencil drawing

 

 

Pen and ink

Barn with Sheep

 

Unfinished Barn Watercolour on Arches paper

Florida and the Dominican Republic.

 Works of art from this period are extremely rare and yet played an important role in the realisation and development of his unique style. Conyers told me,..." it was here that I finally found myself." Even more rare though are his figurative subjects.

 

 

 

Small boat heading out to sea.

There are a whole series of pastels


'Gold Tailings' Dominican Republic
watercolour

Pastel studies

Florida Morning

Tamiami Trail - Hwy 41- Florida

 

Near Stuart - Florida

10 1/4 x  7 1/2 "  260 x 194 mm .(approx)

Florida Morning

Tamiami Trail - Hwy 41- Florida

10 1/4 x  7 1/2 " 260 x 194 mm.(approx)

Dominican Republic seascape
Summer in Blue  Dominican Republic
Dominican Republic
Dominican seascape

10 1/4 x 7 1/2 "

Summer in Blue

Dominican Republic

Dominican morning
15 x 11 " Signed bottom right
Florida Coast water colour

 

 

Abstract art and what he called new cubism

Few and far between are examples of these rare works in the series.

Life, Flight and Sail.


 

Conyers Barker Abstract

 

Conyers Barker Abstract

Ten

Flight North

Conyers Barker Abstract

Space Platform 3

 

Space Platform 4

Solomons dream Oil on board

Sunburst Oil on board.

sig. Conyers Barker

Conyers Barker Abstract Mankind

Mankind

Released as a limited edition print.

 

It was this tiny little creation to the right here, a single tree that was to become a signature feature in Conyers work. It was created to symbolise Conyers love of nature, his mother earth  and his devotion and faith in God.

It appears consistently throughout his latter works becoming sometimes more graphic and simplistic.

 

 

Conyers tree studies

Northern Pines Conyers Barker

Northern Pines

Watercolour

Conyers Barker Tree line

The Tree Line

Watercolour

Conyers BarkerRocky hillside

Rocky Hillside

Oil on Board

Golden Autumn Conyers Barker
     

Golden Autumn

 

Conyers Barker Forest

 

Edge of the Forest

Oil on board

 

Geometric Monoprint 7 x 3.5"

Sig Conyers Barker "Trapped" 1 + 2  Watercolour and bodycolour on brown paper

Winds over the prairies 1979.

 It would be the stratified landscapes that were to become Conyers Barkers trade mark and these can be seen developing in the earlier, more traditional watercolour art which he produced so plentifully.

Much rarer are his more figurative works, sought after these days by collectors and investors, alongside his early abstract examples which ventured into his world of the obscure right through to new cubism and his few and far between still lives.

 

Innisfil Beach

Fishing on the Severn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer on Simcoe

 

Gone fishing Water Colour

EXHIBITIONS: His exhibit inclusions and solo shows list is as creditable as it is extensive:


Royal Canadian Academy. in 1932 and 1936.
New York Worlds Fair, 1938-9
Ontario Gallery Toronto 1975,1976.
Art Gallery of Ontario
Royal Institute Galleries, Picadilly, London 1937
Royal British Colonial Society. London
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1937
Montreal Museum of Fine Art, Art Gallery Hamilton, Guild Gallery Calgary,
Elliot Museum Hutchinson Island, Stuart Florida 1989.
Eaton`s Art Gallery Toronto
A.A.M in 1939,
Simcoe County Museum in 1975.
MacLaren Art Centre-A Major Retrospective 1995-
McMichael Gallery, Kleinburg
Olga Korper Gallery, Leo Kamen Gallery, Robert McLauglin Gallery, Oshawa,

Conyers known works not Illustrated

On the Mudge Farm Whitchurch 1937 Ritchies Auctioneers

Apple Trees Chestnout Park 1909. Watercolour Exh

 

SPRINGTIME NEAR SHANTY BAY GOLF COURSE Watercolour on paper

ONTARIO LANDSCAPE Watercolour

ROW OF BARNS Watercolour

Chinese Laundry, Yonge and Price Streets 1931

E. Conyers Barker water colour "Hamilton Brickworks"

 

Conyers Barker participated in numerous shows including those

of societies of which he is a member.

O.S.A, C.S.P.W.C. , R.C.A. 1990. CSGA

(Ex President)

Other exhibitions incl: United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, (British Embassy) Romania and the United Kingdom and the International Art Exhibition in Japan

Barker: Represented in Major Collections:

Her Majesty the Queen Collection.

Windsor Castle


Canadian Russian Cultural Exchange, Moscow.
Art Gallery of Ontario.

 

 

References.


Horizontal Boy. A Biography of Conyers Barker. D Freeman


Canadian Art, its History and Development - Wm.Colgate
Canadian Landscape Painters.

AH Robson 1932

The Index Of Ontario Artists.

H.Wolff - Toronto1978.


Canadian Art Sales Index
Collectors Dictionary of Canadian Artists.
Ontario Index of Canadian Artists
Davenports :

Art Sales Index.

Exhibition Notice, Eatons Art Gallery Toronto 1985, including reproduction of landscape by the artist.
Maclaren Art Centre Barrie 1993.

 

 

Conyers Barker

An OBITUARY

 

CONTACT

conyers (at) freemanart (dot) ca

Copyright Freemanart:


 

 

 

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Ernest. Conyers Barker a Catalogue raissone - Complete works, Images, [Canadian Artist] The Artists Full Biography and examples of his watercolour and oil paintings and watercolours of Canadian landscapes and Ontario scenes