Bertram Charles Binning

Bertram Charles Binning, painter (b at Medicine Hat, Alta 10 Feb 1909; d at Vancouver 16 Mar 1976). B.C. Binning, as he signed his work, came of a line of architects, but during years of adolescent illness he turned to drawing. In 1927 he began studying at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts (shortly to become the Vancouver School of Art) under F.H. VARLEY.

In the 1930s he studied in New York and London, under Mark Gertler, Amédée Ozenfant and Henry Moore. In 1934 Binning was first appointed to the Vancouver School of Art, and in 1949 to the University of British Columbia School of Architecture; shortly afterwards he founded the Department of Fine Arts, which he headed for a quarter century.

Binning built an international reputation as a draftsman before taking to oil painting in 1948; he thought of drawing as "the most revealing expression of the artist" and his drawings, with their disciplined yet joyfully wandering lines, are his most valued work.

His first paintings were of boats, and were characterized by gay colour and the use of the painting's flatness as a structural element. His continuing interest in architecture led him to design large mosaic murals for public buildings. His later paintings became stylized seascapes and, by the 1960s, purely abstract forms seeking to express what he called "the great quiet spatial ideas."

His late years were shadowed by illness, and he painted little. The 1973 retrospective exhibition in Vancouver was his last. He was one of the first modernist painters in western Canada and a rare classicist among Canadian artists.