Bessie Fry (Symons), 1884 - 1976

Bessie Adelaide Fry was born on Christmas Eve in Farringdon, Berkshire, England. She was the first daughter of Daughter of Joseph Howard Fry, a Protestant minister, and Adelaide Lucy (Taylor) Fry. She was followed by four siblings; two bothers and two sisters. Fry had a younger sister, Beatrice Dorothy. This has led to confusion among historians, as some have listed Bessie as Beatrice, however, Beatrice was a teacher and not an artist. 

It is known Fry arrived in Halifax NB, from England by ship sometime after 1897.  Details of her life and whereabouts are unknown until August 28, 1918, when she enlisted as a Nursing Sister in the Canadian Army Medical Corps at in Montreal, she was 33 years old. The enlistment form notes that she had 4 months prior military experience and that her occupation was a graduated nurse. Her next of kin was given as "Mother - Mrs. Adelaide Lucy Fry, South Fort George, B.C., Canada.” It is known that by this time her father had already passed away, in 1913.

After the war, Fry moved to Vancouver and enrolled at the Vancouver School of Art, where she studied with F.H. Varley and Jock McDonald.

There is record that Fry studied with Frank Spenlove-Spenlove, at the Spenlove School of Painting before she left England and that she was a pupil at the Art Student's League in New York, (date unknown).

In 1920, Fry exhibited at the  Annual Exhibition of the B.C. Society of Fine Arts, held at the Vancouver School Board offices on Hamilton Street. She would show her work regularly in this show over the next 5 decades. 

Fry was an active and even aggressive exhibitor through the late 20’s and right through the 30’s holding solo and group shows in Jasper, AB, the Seattle Art Museum, the Royal Canadian Academy, the Island Arts and Crafts Society, B.C. Artists Christmas exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery and even served as a juror for the 1st Annual International Salon of Watercolours held by the Provincial Exhibition in New Westminster.

Fry had a relationship with the Vancouver art Gallery, holding three solo shows at the venue, one in 1933, 1940 and 1948. Each show featured her oil paintings, watercolours, prints, and drawings. An exhibition catalogue was produced, for the for the 1933 show titled "Paintings, Prints, and Pastels”, on file at the Art Gallery Library.

Fry died of a stroke in Victoria, BC on January 26, 1976. She was 91 years old. She is Buried in Victoria, BC.


Selected Collections
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, BC
The Feckless Collection, Vancouver, BC

Bessie Fry Symons

Bessie Fry Symons