The tribute to Fenwick Lansdowne officially lands in Oak Bay on March 29. (Courtesy Community Association of Oak Bay)

The tribute to Fenwick Lansdowne officially lands in Oak Bay on March 29. (Courtesy Community Association of Oak Bay)

Grassroots project lands artist legacy in Oak Bay park

Tribute to famed bird painter Fenwick Lansdowne greets visitors to Queens’ Park

A new Oak Bay installation honours one of the world’s foremost painters of birds who made his life and home in the community.

The concept was for an attractive and enduring outdoor display, in harmony with its natural setting, to celebrate the community’s artistic and natural heritage and honour Fenwick Lansdowne.

Lansdowne lived and painted most of his life in Oak Bay, until his death in 2008.

Unveiled Monday (March 29) in Queens’ Park, the tribute itself describes how Lansdowne was born in Hong Kong in 1937, the only child of British parents. When he was three, he moved to Victoria with his family. His interest in birds began around the age of five and by 13 he was painting them – inspired by regular outings to view local birds in their natural settings, including along Oak Bay shores.

Lansdowne illustrated several books, including two volumes on the Birds of the West Coast (1976 and 1980), which he also wrote. He was commissioned to paint the birds of Hong Kong and Rare Birds of China. His meticulous art is found in numerous collections worldwide and has been exhibited in prestigious institutions internationally. He was appointed a Member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (1974), an Officer of the Order of Canada (1976), received an honorary degree from the University of Victoria (1980) and the Order of British Columbia (1995).

Local fans of the artist and his work, Jacques Sirois and Chris Garrett started crafting a plan in early 2019.

They approached the Community Association of Oak Bay for support, and the group organized an illustrated lecture that April that drew 80 attendees and kicked off interest in the project.

“Thanks to Fenwick Lansdowne’s extensive catalogue and impeccable artistry, the Victoria Harbour Migratory Bird Sanctuary is certainly the best illustrated of all such sanctuaries in Canada, if not North America,” said Sirois, a naturalist and longtime supporter of the federal sanctuary created in 1923.

With initial funding from Nature Canada, Edley Signs was engaged to design the signage, and Queens’ Park was deemed the optimal choice of location (they later learned it was among Lansdowne’s favourite birding spots where he often visited with his children to see the ducks).

The Kiwanis Club of Oak Bay and The Victoria Natural History Society each donated $5,000.

“When this project was presented to the club by Janet Morningstar, there was overwhelming support. The club is honoured to be one of the major contributors to this recognition of this world famous artist who was a longtime resident of Oak Bay,” said Gerry Adam, past-president for the Kiwanis Club of Oak Bay.

Oak Bay council approved the tribute and the location in September 2020.

The display is made up of three panels sharing stories of the artist and his work. It also features silhouette cut-outs of birds either depicted on the sign panels or frequently seen from this vantage point – kingfisher, oystercatchers and Brant geese.

Lansdowne’s cottage studio, where he painted since 1963, still stands at 941 Victoria Ave. and was placed on the Oak Bay Heritage Register in 2008.

c.vanreeuwyk@blackpress.ca

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