Inglis Sheldon-Williams

About the Artist

Henry Inglis Jodrell Sheldon-Williams was born in Hampshire, England, in 1870. The son of a  landscapeA painting, photograph or other work of art which depicts scenery such as mountains, valleys, trees, rivers and forests. There is invariably some sky in the scene. ( Landscape is also a term that may also refer simply to a horizontally-oriented rectangle, just as a vertically-oriented one may be said to be oriented the portrait way. (  painter, Sheldon-Williams first came to what is now Saskatchewan in 1887,  homesteadingFind out about homesteading at the Canadian Encyclopedia:  at Cannington Manor in the southeastern corner of the province. He returned to England in 1891 to continue his art studies and came back to Canada in 1894 to fulfill his homesteading requirements.

From 1896 to 1898 Sheldon-Williams studied at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, England and then at the British Museum with Sir Thomas Brock. Sheldon-Williams also studied art at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris, France, and spent part of 1897 doing landscape studies in England’s Cotswold Hills.

In London, Sheldon-Williams was exposed to the paintings of J. M. W. Turner and from them he learned how to suggest rather than define form and how, through the use of impressionistic techniques, to emphasize sky and light. Author Ronald Rees says, “Sheldon-Williams was one of the first painters to convey a sense of the stillness of the prairie, its emptiness and the luminous quality of its light.”  (Rees, 1984)

In 1899 Sheldon-Williams joined the army and served in South Africa during the Boer War (1899-1901). At the same time, he produced drawings and  watercolourAny paint that uses water as a solvent. Paintings done with this medium are known as watercolours. What carries the pigment in watercolour (called its medium, vehicle, or base) is gum arabic. An exception to this rule is water miscible oil paints, which employ water as their solvent, but are actually oil paints. Colours are usually applied and spread with brushes, but other tools can also used. The most common techniques for applying watercolour are called wet-on-dry and wet-on-wet, along with the dry brush techniques dry-on-dry and dry-on-wet. Colours can be removed while still wet, to various degrees by blotting. Most watercolour painting is done on paper, but other absorbent grounds can also be employed. The papers most favored by those who paint with watercolour is white, very thick, with high rag content, and has some tooth. (  illustrations of scenes from the war, for publication in The Sphere, a London magazine.  This experience prefigured his role as an official war artist for Canada in 1917-18, during the First World War.

Following his marriage in 1904 he lived in Gloucestershire, England, and exhibited at London’s Royal Academy, the Paris Salon and other exhibitions in London and Europe. In 1913 Sheldon-Williams returned to Saskatchewan, settling in Regina, where he met Norman Mackenzie, a prominent lawyer and art collector. Mackenzie became a strong supporter of Sheldon-Williams, who was regularly commissioned to paint portraits of many prominent Canadians, including chief justices, members of the Saskatchewan government, the city government and a Chancellor of the University of Saskatchewan.

In 1916 Sheldon-Williams helped organize the School of Art at Regina College and gave classes there until he was commissioned as a war artist in Europe. He attempted, unsuccessfully, to return to Canada in 1924. After a nervous breakdown the following year he lived in Italy and then England, where he died in 1940. During this period he continued to send work to Canada to be sold. Sheldon-Williams was deeply affected by the pioneer life and the landscape of western Canada, and he wrote intermittently about both until he died.

Summing up Sheldon-Williams’ career, author Ronald Rees says, “Had he stayed in Canada Sheldon-Williams, with his feeling for prairie light and space, might have broken new trails instead of merely hinting at new directions. But, like the rest of the immigrant painters, he saw himself primarily as a bearer of culture to the new land, not as an interpreter of it.” (Rees, 1984)

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning