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Maxwell Bates

At the Crossroads of Expressionism

April 28, 2006 - April 28, 2006

Presented by the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria Volunteer Committee

Artist, architect, and writer Maxwell Bates (1906 to 1980) is a pivotal figure in the history and evolution of Canadian art. We are particularly pleased to be exhibiting his work at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Bates’ tremendous impact on the art scene here from 1962 to 1980 remains a key period in this city’s artistic development.

This retrospective exhibition features over 80 works spanning Maxwell Bates’ career from 1921 to 1978. The exhibition is divided into chronological sections starting with his early work in Calgary. The expressionist influence that features heavily throughout his career was already evident at this early stage. Bates was working with philosophies and ideals that were very different from those of his contemporaries in Calgary.

Bate’s themes dealt mainly with the human condition and social commentary, which intensified when he moved to London, England in 1931. By 1937 the influence of his experiences with writers and artists involved in the International Expressionist movement was evident. His work was being exhibited with Matisse, Picasso and Kandinsky in the Artists InternationalAssociation Exhibition, a western response to Hitler’s Degenerate Art Show.

One of his most interesting written works was created during his detainment in a prisoner of war camp in Nazi Germany from 1940 to 1945. During this time, when he was not able to paint, he turned to writing to express his views on the nature and function of art. The work that recorded this tumultuous stage in his life was the Prisoner of War Notebook, which has never before been included in an exhibition of his work.

Bates returned to Canada in 1946 and was able, once again, to paint. He produced works that combined the influence of his travels with a truly Canadian spirit. Caf’ scenes and prairie families, odalisques and cocktail parties were the themes that Bates would interpret in the next stage of his career.

This exhibition presents works that Bates produced in Victoria, many on loan from the Gallery’s collection. These include the series Artists at Work, Secrets of the Grand Hotel, Beautiful BC, Assassin and Odalisque.

People interested in Maxwell Bates’ writing, art and architecture are invited to visit

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