Lethbridge’s Galt Museum explores life of early artist
By Janet Nicol
"Mount Sir Donald"
Edith Fanny Kirk, "Mount Sir Donald," circa 1920s, watercolour on paper, 18” x 12”.
Edith Kirk was more than “a quiet little English lady” who spent her final decades painting the Alberta landscape.
“She sought adventure and she had courage,” says Wendy Aitkens, who organized an exhibition about Kirk for the Galt Museum and Archives in Lethbridge.
Kirk was born to a middle-class family in Sheffield in 1858. When she came to Canada in 1905, she was already an accomplished watercolour painter and had spent time at artist colonies in Britain and France. In Canada, she sought out isolated places to live, including Atlin, B.C. To support herself, she worked as a nurse’s helper, a governess and a teacher. After returning to Britain for a year, she settled in Lethbridge in 1918.
“She came back for more adventures,” says Aitkens, the Galt’s curator. “She fell in love with the Prairies, and was within easy access to Banff and Jasper.” Kirk joined the Alpine Club of Canada, and went on many painting excursions in the Rocky Mountains. She also taught art; some of her students’ paintings are included in A Legacy of Adventure and Art: The Life of Miss Edith Fanny Kirk, which runs June 6 to Oct. 12.
“I am also a watercolour artist and a traveler, so I found many personal connections with her life,” says Aitkens, who has written Kirk’s biography. “I hope visitors will be inspired to search for adventure in their own life.”