By Robert Amos The latest installment in the award-winning series on the life and work of E. J. Hughes brings the reader into this very private artist’s home and studio on Shawnigan Lake.
In the most intimate volume yet about prolific Canadian painter E. J. Hughes, the artist’s official biographer Robert Amos brings us Life at the Lake, capturing the years Hughes and his wife Fern spent at their home on Shawnigan Lake, Vancouver Island.
Following Hughes’s service as a war artist, in 1946 he and Fern looked for a place to buy in Victoria. Then, in 1951, they spotted an ad for a property on Shawnigan Lake, about 40 kilometres north of the city. The quiet lakeside existence he and Fern established suited his temperament and artistic needs perfectly. In addition to reproductions of all of his Shawnigan-themed oils and watercolours, the book includes dozens of sketches, colour notes, local news clippings, letters, and illuminating excerpts from recorded interviews with Pat Salmon, Hughes’s longtime friend and assistant.
With a keen appreciation for the quotidian, Amos captures lakeside life at Shawnigan, with Hughes’s observations on birds and trees, and trips to local shops and restaurants. He tells of an unusually snowy winter that slowed the delivery of finished paintings to the post office and, on a more sombre note, the gradual progression of Fern’s muscular dystrophy. The book shares insights into the relationships—with Fern, Pat, and agent Max Stern—that allowed Hughes to achieve great success as an artist while living a quiet existence at Shawnigan Lake.
For the Hughes fan and anyone who enjoys learning about the everyday lives of artists, this latest addition to the Hughes pictorial canon is a must.