Holiday Lit List: The Life & Art of Ina D.D. Uhthoff

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Wherein we look at some of the local books that have been published this year and give you some ideas of what to get your book-loving friends and family for Hanukkah, Solstice, Festivus, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or just because it’s a day ending with “y”.
Don’t forget to support your local independent bookstores!

The Life & Art of Ina D. D. Uhthoff
by Christina Johnson-Dean
Book #5 in the Unheralded Artists of BC Series
Mother Tongue Publishing

Steer clear of drippy Monet calendars and Modigliani daybooks when you’re shopping for the art lover in your life this holiday season. Thanks to the intrepid work of Mother Tongue Publishing there is a much better option available: the beautiful collection of books included in the Unheralded Artists of BC Series. Any (or all) of the books from this brilliant series would make an excellent gift, but I found the biography of Vancouver Island artist Ina D.D. Uhthoff particularly inspiring.

The Life & Art of Ina D. D. Uhthoff tells the story of an artist, teacher, critic and single mother who immigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1913 after training in drawing and painting at the Glasgow School of Art. Uhthoff first settled in the Kootenays and then in Victoria where she became an influential member of the visual arts community – a contemporary of Emily Carr, founder of the Victoria School of Art, art critic for the Victoria Daily Colonist and a key force in the establishment of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. She studied with Mark Tobey in his master class in Emily Carr’s studio, exhibited with the Island Arts and Crafts Society in Victoria and at the Canadian National Exhibition in Vancouver, alongside major artists of her era. She became a member of the BC Society of Fine Arts and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (London). Her work is in the permanent collections of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, BC Archives, the Glenbow Museum, the University of Victoria Legacy Gallery and the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Vancouver From Kitsilano, circa 1914, ink on paper, Ina D.D. Uhthoff (courtesy of Mother Tongue Publishing)

Author and art historian Christina Johnson-Dean gave an Illustrated Talk on The Life & Art of Ina D.D. Uhthoff at the Vancouver Public Library one rainy afternoon this fall and opened the event by passing around a tin of cookies (delicious!) and copies of the Uhthoff family shortbread recipe. I left the talk amazed by this little-known BC artist and I remain awed by her accomplishments, which include, on top of everything else, a killer shortbread recipe. Yes, some women really are that fabulous. To say nothing of Christina Johnson-Dean who set new standard in my mind for author events: write a great book, give a fascinating talk and bring a batch of cookies you made using your subject’s recipe.

Vancouver from Rowing Club, circa 1914, ink on paper, Ina D.D. Uhthoff (courtesy Mother Tongue Publishing)

It’s a gift to all of us that Mother Tongue Publishing is bringing stories of unheralded BC artists like Ina D.D. Uhthoff to life. Be sure to include a batch of Ina’s shortbread cookies when you give this book to your favourite art history buff.

Click to read our previous Holiday Lit List suggestions.