Speed: The History of Speed Painting in Canada

Event Dates:
  • Mon July 6, 2020 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Mon July 13, 2020 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Mon July 20, 2020 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Mon July 27, 2020 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
  • Mon August 3, 2020 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
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  • Event Cost: By Donation
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Long before I had ever considered doing an exhibition of Bob Ross, I had been fascinated by the work of Levine Flexhaug (1918–1974), whose works I would find from time to time at thrift stores. I would purchase them as they were somewhat beguiling, something that I couldn’t quite place into the landscape of our art history. At the beginning I had a $5 limit as to what I would pay for them and I would then turn around and sell them on eBay, typically between $19.99 and $29.99, always to an address in Toronto. This was in the early 2000s while I was living in Grand Forks, and after the third or fourth one I sold I decided it might be worth following the trail and digging a little deeper.

It turned out that my paintings were being purchased by a folk art dealer, and in doing some online research I was amazed to discover that an art student in Toronto had done an installation using Flexhaug’s work in a thrift store, and another had used his works as the inspiration for a huge installation in the prairies. Years later while visiting my friend and artist George Shawchuk in Fanny Bay, he handed me a copy of a catalogue for an exhibition he was in at the McMichael Gallery, and wouldn’t you know it, there was Flexhaug. This all further fueled my interest and I continued my hunt for his paintings and would spend more and more time trying to unravel the mystery of who this artist was.

While this exhibition will give you an insight into the life and work of Levine Flexhaug, it’s really intended to give you an introduction and a sense of the tradition of speed painting in Canada. For Levine, most of these paintings were done in the late 1940s, before Bob Ross was even born, and sold at the train stations in Banff and Lake Louise.

In addition to the work of Levine Flexhaug we will also feature the work of Joe Prokopchuk, also known as Yukon Joe, (1905-2000) who sold his work from Prince George to the Yukon. Two years ago while visiting Ft. Nelson I was amazed to see the local museum was filled with his work. In doing more research into his life I found out that Yukon Joe’s Diary is one of the 100 Objects of Interest at the Royal B.C. Museum.

We will also display a number of paintings for your consideration by the renowned artist Toni Onley (1929-2004). Toni was well known for being able to paint one of his watercolours in 20 minutes and when asked how he could charge $2,500 for them he would quip, “it may be 20 minutes now, but it’s a lifetime of learning.”

Paul Crawford, Curator

Exhibition runs July 4-September 13

Monday-Friday: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday-Sunday: 11:00am – 4:00pm