Alma Sawbridge (1915-1998) &
Juanita Lebarre Symington (1904-1980)
Little biographical information is known about Alma Sawbridge, but it still seems appropriate to pair her work with the past president of the Women’s Arts Association of Hamilton, Juanita LeBarre Symington due to both artists being from Hamilton, in the same time period, and migrating to the artist colony of Gloucester.
Though not an acclaimed historically significant Canadian artist, Hamilton painter Alma Sawbridge became recognized in her local art community for her distinctively bright coloured landscapes and still life paintings. Formerly residing at 168 Kenilworth Street South, she often shared her talent with others through art lessons. Alma Sawbridge exhibited with the Women’s Arts Association of Hamilton and is a listed active member.
The paintings in the collection that Earls Court Gallery presents were purchased in 1998 from her brother prior to her death. Sawbridge’s paintings range from scenes of Ontario to Western Canada to paintings of Cape Cod. She also painted portraits, urban, rural and sea-scapes. For many years, Sawbridge and her husband travelled to Cape Cod and Gloucester where her husband would fish from the pier, while she painted the boats in the harbour area.
Like Sawbridge, Juanita LeBarre Symington was born in Hamilton in 1904. She was known in the Hamilton arts community as being an avid and innovative teacher, organizer, and of course professional painter. From a young age, Symington had weekly lessons with Marion Mattice, mastering drawing and watercolours. Later, she studied oil painting with J.R. Seavey and John Sloan Gordon. By late 1930s, Symington was known in the Hamilton art community as a professional artist, which was quite an accomplishment for a woman during those times. During her career, Symington had many ‘one man’ shows at such galleries as Classic Fine Art Galleries, Mallory’s, and Eaton’s College Street Fine Art Gallery. Her work can be found in such collections as Queen Elizabeth II, the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Appleby College, Ridley College, and McMaster Museum of Art.
It is evident from Symington’s paintings that she too painted in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and who knows, maybe alongside Sawbridge. Gloucester's scenic beauty, active fishing industry, and renowned arts community have attracted and inspired painters since the early 19th century, which it is no surprise that both Symington and Sawbridge chose to park their easels at the boat docks. In this collection of paintings, both artists were enchanted by the bright green hulls of the fishing boats and could not resist depict the bustling activity of the fishermen coming and going. The constant activity in the Gloucester Harbour makes easily holds an artist’s attention as it is an ever-changing landscape with wonderful light refractions.
The group of paintings has been selected to highlight each artist’s strengths and similarities. Though Symington is more senior than Sawbridge, as far as experience in the art community, the result on the canvas proves that they were equally strong in aesthetics, composition and overall artistic abilities.
By Andrea Jackman