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Maxwell Bates, Scarecrow with Yellow Background
Maxwell Bates, Scarecrow with Yellow Background, 1968
oil on canvas
AGGV 89.29
view in image database

Maxwell Bates:
Artist, Architect, Writer

Maxwell Bates (1906-1980) O.C. was one of Canada's most important 20th century artists, as well as a respected architect and profound writer.

Bates's interest in the human condition, experiences as a youth in Calgary and penchant for Fauvist, figurative, and non-objective art in the late 1920s helped to shape an artist without parallel. "That period in Calgary...was a very important time in my life because I was developing my ideas on art and literature...I don't think I've changed my vision essentially since 1930, before I went to England."

In 1932, at age 26 and in London, England, Bates joined a group of the most promising British artists in their 20s, including Barbara Hepworth and Victor Pasmore. During this time, Bates became increasingly sensitive to Expressionist art.

Bates's artistic career was put on hold from 1940 to 1945 while he was a Prisoner of War in Germany. This experience affected his personal and artistic outlook profoundly, helping to develop the theme of "man manipulated by forces beyond his control".

"Directness, simplicity and intensity, and that's all I've ever tried to do."

Returning to Calgary in 1946, Bates joined his father's architectural firm and practised as an architect to give complete independence to his art. He lived in Calgary until 1962, when he moved to Victoria, eventually helping to form the "Limners", a modern-day "guild" of illuminators that included Myfanwy Pavelic, Robin Skelton, Karl Spreitz, Richard Ciccimara and others.

This virtual exhibit examines Maxwell Bates's creative output; not only his visual art production, but also his career as an architect, poet and writer. You can listen to Bates talk about the themes of his artwork and his childhood in audio clips, browse photographs and important documents from his life in mementoes, and read tributes from Bates' contemporaries.

It is our hope that you will learn more about Maxwell Bates, an extraordinary Canadian artist, architect and writer.

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