E.J. Hughes paints in his Duncan studio in 2004. Photo: Darren Stone / Times Colonist

E.J. Hughes paints in his Duncan studio in 2004. Photo: Darren Stone / Times Colonist

E.J. Hughes, 1913 - 2007

E.J. Hughes is one of British Columbia's favourite landscape painters, because at some time in his life, he probably painted the scenery near you.

Born in North Vancouver, Hughes spent his childhood in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. He studied under Charles H. Scott, Jock Macdonald and Frederick Varley at the Vancouver School of Applied Art and Design, graduating in 1933. 

Following two years of post-graduate studies, Hughes joined his fellow classmates, Paul Goranson and Orville Fisher in completing several mural projects in restaurants and churches around Vancouver. The three, who referred to themselves as the West Coast Brotherhood, used to paint on location together, and the Feckless Collection includes three prints of the same ship in dry dock, one from each artist, featuring a slightly different viewpoint. 

In 1939, the Brotherhood embarked on a high-profile project when they painted a 12-piece mural for the San Francisco World’s fair. Their mural was titled “Industry” and was shown at the B.C. Pavillion. Unfortunately, the exposition was cut short by the outbreak of the Second World War. 

Hughes enlisted in the Royal Canadian Artillery in 1940 and became an army artist. Soon after, he was promoted to official Army War artist working in Canada, Great Britain and the Aleutians. Hughes spent six years expanding his artistic skills as an official war artist. 

After his discharge from the military in 1946, Hughes returned to the West Coast of Canada and settled in the small town of Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island with his wife Fern and began a lifelong study of the province and its landscape as a professional artist.

However, was a struggle to make ends meet.  It wasn’t until 1951, when he landed a contract with the Dominion Gallery in Montreal that he was able to earn a living as a full-time artist, his relationship with the Gallery would last 35 years. 

Hughes was commissioned by Standard Oil to create a series of works depicting BC’s coast; this enabled him to travel and paint BC’s coast and interior thanks to Canada Council grants. 

In 1966, he was elected to the RCA and one year later received a Canada Council award. In 2001 E.J. Hughes received the Order of Canada and in 2005 he was awarded the Order of British Columbia.

E.J. Hughes is regarded as one of BC’s most accomplished landscape painters. He continued to paint until the age of 93. He passed away in Duncan, BC in 2007.

Memberships and awards
1933 Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts
Vancouver School of Art Graduates' Association
Canadian Group of Painters
1968 Royal Canadian Academy of Arts
1969 Canada Council Award
2001 Order of Canada
2005 Order of British Columbia

Selected Collections
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, ON
Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC
Audain Art Gallery, Whistler, BC
Naniamo Art Gallery, Nanaimo, BC
The Feckless Collection, Vancouver, BC
 

E.J Hughes working on the  Industry  mural displayed at the San Francisco World's Fair in 1939.

E.J Hughes working on the Industry mural displayed at the San Francisco World's Fair in 1939.