Edmonton Art Club, vice-president 1939, president, 1940
Edmonton Group of the Alberta Society of Artists, chairman, 1941
Nelson Art Club
Alberta Society of Artists
Calgary Sketch Club
The Feckless Collection, Vancouver, BC
Glenbow Museum, Calgary AB
Mr. John Erb Private Collection, Kitchener, ON
Alec John Garner, 1897 - 1995
Alec Garner was born on 29 Dec 1897 in Twyford, Southampton, Winchester, England. His family immigrated to Canada shortly after. They stayed in Montreal for 11 years and then moved to Calgary, then Edmonton.
When Garner was 15, he came down with pneumonia and was not expected to live through the night. He was nursed back to health by Ethel Walton. Ethel would eventually become his wife.
In 1923, Garner and Ethel moved to California. Garner was employed by the railroad and was making velocipedes and handcarts. However, after Ethel’s father died, the couple decided to move back to Canada to be closer to family.
During the Depression, Garner was fortunate enough to find work with the Canadian Pacific Railway. His job was to paint lettering on locomotives in 23 karat gold. Garner began developing his talent as an artist at this time, working with oil paints, charcoal, pen and ink, and watercolour.
A few years later, he studied with A.C. Leighton. Garner was also associated with noted artists A. Y. Jackson, H. G. Glyde and W. J. Phillips and a personal friend of Roland Gissing and Matt Lindstrom, all well-known Alberta artists.
In his earlier years, Garner was a familiar site at the Calgary Stampede, drawing portraits in pastel. He entered and won many awards for his art at Edmonton and Calgary exhibitions and in 1939 had two of his watercolors hung in the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in Montreal.
On a visit to Proctor, BC, Garner fell in love with the beautiful mountains and lakes, so, in 1944, Garner quit the railroad and moved to Proctor and began driving the local school bus, which allowed him time to paint.
He joined the Nelson Art Club and for a time was an instructor. He continued his membership in the Alberta Society of Artists and the Calgary Sketch Club, sending his new paintings of Kootenay landscapes to their exhibitions.
In 1949, he was commissioned by Mr. John Erb, president of Interior Brewery, to paint portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Erb’s two children. They were widely admired, and other commissions quickly followed. He painted over 16 different portraits but his favourite one was of his wife Ethel.
Ethel became his manager and agent, arranging all shows and business arrangements. She was also the one who suggested that Garner begin to paint a series of pictures capturing the passing era of the Sternwheeler before they disappeared. The collection of boats proved to be very popular and was exhibited throughout Alberta and the Pacific Northwest including Spokane, Washington. The entire collection was purchased by the Glenbow Foundation of Calgary in 1956 to preserve this historical record.
Ethel lost her battle with colon cancer in 1963, this had a devastating effect on Garner. For some time he did not produce any paintings and never again exhibited his art. Garner would live another 32 years but he never remarried.
In 1967, Garner’s home and studio were destroyed by fire. The only item he managed to save from the fire was an almost life-size portrait he painted of Ethel. It would take Garner years to completely rebuild another house on the same location.
Garner continued to paint until he lost most of his eyesight at age 85. He passed away September 2, 1995.