Ina D.D. Uhthoff, 1889 - 1971
Ina Uhtoff's life is a story or tragedy and opportunity. An upper class Glasweigian, voluntarily embarking on a pioneer adventure in the Kootenays with her husband, who would later prove unable to care for her or her children. These circumstances threw Uhthoff into the role of another sort of pioneer, one of establishing the art community of Victoria, British Columbia.
Ina D.D. Uhthoff was born Ina Campbell, and raised in in a wealthy, educated and cultured family in Glasgow. Ina attended the Glasgow School of Art, and even before she left Scotland, she was actively exhibiting her artworks at solo and group shows, including a solo show at the Ralph Prond Gallery 1917.
Uhtoff first came to Canada to visit family friends in 1913. It was a long arduous trip for a young city girl in inappropriate shoes, however, Ina made it all the way to Vancouver and then Crawford Bay in the Kootenay Mountains, where she met her future husband Ted Uhtoff, also from Glasgow.
However, the First World War would intervene and Ina would return to Glasgow to study for her teacher’s certificate, while Ted was sent to the front lines. Upon completion of the war, the two were married in Glasgow and returned to the Kootenays in early 1923 with their two small children to set up a homestead. Ina took to pioneer life well, she caught her own fish, canned her own grouse and churned her own butter. It seemed an idyllic adventure.
However it didn’t last long, it soon became apparent that Ted was suffering from PTSD and was not able to deal with the day to day duties of the farm. It fell to Ina to become the family’s breadwinner. By 1925, Ina had established herself well enough as a teacher in Victoria to move her children there.
She got busy in Victoria, quickly becoming a successful artist and teacher, and active community member. Uhthoff's classes in 1926, only a year after her arrival in Victoria, she established the provincially funded Victoria School of Art. Her first year students were able to transfer their course credits directly into second year classes at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts, run by Charles H. Scott, (another graduate of the Glasgow School or Art) indicating the high quality of instruction at the school, taught almost entirely by Uhthoff herself.
Over the next few decades Uhtoff would dedicate herself to raising her children, teaching her classes and exhibiting her work. In 1944, Uhthoff, along with four fellow artists, opened "The Little Centre" gallery on Yates Street. The gallery eventually moved to Broughton Street and re-opened as the Arts Centre of Greater Victoria. A few years later, in 1951, the gallery received the Spencer Mansion on Moss Street as a gift and relocated again. Eventually this building would become the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
Uhthoff was a tireless supporter of the AGGV, raising funds, promoting programs and exhibiting her work. Uhthoff also wrote an art criticism column in the Victoria Daily Colonist. She continued to support the gallery and write articles until she grew frail with old age and was no longer able to keep up the pace. However, withdrawing from her duties at the AGGV proved to be difficult and she suffered from inactivity and loneliness. She decided to join her son John and his family in Ontario.
When Uhtoff passed away in Ontario at age 82, she had made a significant contribution the B.C. art community. Not only did she leave more than 400 drawings, prints and paintings behind, the Victoria School of Art and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria are still cornerstones of the Victoria art community and provincial art scene.
Although Una Uhthoff died in Ontario, her body was interred at the Royal Oak Cemetery in Victoria.
Glasgow School of Art, Scotland
Victoria School of Art (Founder)
Federation of Canadian Artists
B.C. Society of Artists (Member)
Royal Society of Arts, London (Fellow)
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, BC
Vancouver Art Gallery, BC
University of Victoria, Legacy Art Gallery, Victoria, BC
The Maltwood Gallery, University of Victoria, BC
The Feckless Collection, Vancouver, BC
Who's Who in Northwest Art edited by Marion Brymner Appleton
1941; published by Frank McCaffrey, Seattle Washington
INA D.D. UHTHOFF - Memorial Exhibition, by C.D.G.
1972, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria / Canada Council exhibition
catalogue; no ISBN
The Mountains and the Sky by Lorne E. Render
1974, Glenbow-Alberta Institute; published by McClelland and
Stewart West, ISBN 0-7712-1001-2
British Columbia Women Artists: 1885 - 1985
Published by the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria 1985
Biographical Index of Artists in Canada
2003, Evelyn de R. McMann, University of Toronto Press,
The Life and Art of Ina D.D. Uhthoff
2012 Christina Johnson-Dean, Mother Tongue Publishing Ltd.
Ina Uhthoff biography, part of the Unheralded Artists of BC series
Article by Miss J.E.M. Bruce
Victoria Daily Colonist, March 26 1939