Harrison deserves to be in national gallery

Oak Bay mayor joins local MP and MLA in call to have Ted Harrison's work displayed in national gallery

It takes a special kind of talent to bring together politicians from various jurisdictions and all political stripes. But that achievement pales in comparison to some of the other accomplishments of the late Ted Harrison.

Harrison called Oak Bay home for more than two decades, opening a studio along The Ave where his many fans from around the world could stop by and watch him work. Harrison died in Victoria in January at the age of 88, but not before he crafted a colourful legacy that spans the West Coast that he loved so much and far beyond.

“What he did is he painted who we are as Canadians. He didn’t dress it up, he didn’t intellectualize it. He painted in a voice that all Canadians from three to 103 can understand and enjoy,” said Harrison’s friend and biographer Katherine Gibson.

The renowned artist was known for his colourful depictions of the Yukon – where he spent two decades – and the Pacific Northwest where he spent the past two decades.

In 1987 he was awarded The Order of Canada. In 2004, he was made a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, and presented with the Order of British Columbia in 2008.

But one honour still eludes Harrison. His work has yet to be hung in the National Gallery of Canada. Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen, Victoria MP Murray Rankin and Oak Bay-Gordon Head MLA Andrew Weaver are hoping to change that. The trio is lending their voices to the premier and MP of the Yukon, who are lobbying to have Harrison’s work included in the Ottawa gallery.

“There are few Victorians who have seen the Olympic Mountains glow purple after the sunset and not felt that nature was imitating a Ted Harrison painting, rather than the other way around,” said Rankin in his letter to the board of trustees at the national gallery.

According to the national gallery’s mission statement, its collection opens the way for appreciation of the finest in artistic expression, making it accessible to the public across the country.

The inclusion of Harrison’s works would say more about the gallery’s ability to live up to its mission than the talents of a truly great Canadian artist.