Maxwell Bates

Maxwell Bates 1906 – 1980

Chronology prepared by Nancy Townshend


1906 – born in Calgary into a cultured Anglo-Canadian family, eldest son of the architect William Stanley Bates.

1911 – began to examine every image in his family’s Studio magazines: especially attracted to the 1904 volume on Daumier.

1912 – visited England with his family: a formative experience for his Secrets of the Grand Hotel series.

1924-1931 – worked full-time in his father’s architectural office.

1925 – met fellow modernist William Leroy Stevenson. Bates admired Daumier, Goya, Velasquez, Degas, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Cezanne. Bates read all books on art, literary criticism, philosophy, psychology, poetry and Russian novels in Calgary’s Carnegie Library, the Memorial Park Library.

1926/27 – 1927/28 – took an eighty-hour drawing class from Lars Haukaness two evenings per week in Calgary at the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art (the “Tech”) with Stevenson.

1928 – painted a non-objective canvas. Expelled from the Calgary Art Club (a member for just two years).

1929 – studied late 19th/early 20th century European masterpieces in the Helen Birch-Bartlett Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago for three weeks with Stevenson.

1930 – left Calgary on June 6 on a cattle train and boat for London, England.

1931 – Bates’s Family With Pears 1929 was excluded from the inaugural First Annual (“Open”) Alberta Society of Artists Exhibition yet included in the National Gallery of Canada’s 6th Annual Exhibition of Canadian Art.

Please see Nancy Townshend, Maxwell Bates: Canada’s Premier Expressionist of the 20th Century (Calgary: Snyder Hedlin Fine Arts Ltd., 2005). For more details regarding the 1925 – 1931 period, please also see the Chronology on William Leroy Stevenson, and Nancy Townshend, A History of Art in Alberta 1905 – 1970 (Calgary: Bayeux Arts, 2005)

1931 – arrived in London at the age of twenty-five.

1931 – exhibited in Three Painters and Three Sculptors at the Bloomsbury Gallery in London.

1932-1939 – exhibited with the Twenties Group on the invitation of his commercial art gallery dealer, Mrs. Lucy Carrington Wertheim.

1934 – published his article on Naive Painting in Phoebus Calling. “Naïve painting is more emotional…, is intensely individual….”

1934 – began work in the architectural firm of J. Harold Gibbons.

1937 – Mrs. Wertheim gave Bates a one-man show at her Wertheim Gallery, London.

1939 – volunteered in the British Territorial Army.

1940 – in the 51st Highland Division, part of the French IX Corps.

1940 – 1945 – Prisoner of War, #1697, at Unterbreizbach in Stalag IXC, a salt mine, Thuringia, Germany. Experienced two forced marches. Manual labourer. Secretly kept a Notebook.

1945 – freed by United States forces and returned to England.

January 1946 – returned to Calgary. To give complete independence for his art, Bates resumed work in his father’s architectural firm.

1947 – one-man show, Canadian Art Galleries, Calgary.

1947 – organized the Calgary Group show (53 works) exhibited at the Vancouver Art Gallery from January 20 to February 15, 1948. A smaller version of the show (39 works) toured nationally.

1949 – married May Watson.

1949-1950 – studied Drawing and Painting from Max Beckmann and Analysis and Criticism from Abraham Rattner for four months at the Brooklyn Museum Art School, New York City. Impressed with the Van Gogh and Klee exhibitions.

1950 – returned to Calgary. Resumed work as an architect. Formed a partnership with A. W. Hodges.

1951 – registered as an architect in Alberta. Received an honorary award from the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (MRAIC). Became a member of the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour.

June 1952 – his wife, May Watson Bates, died.

1953 – with John H. Snow, started to pioneer in colour lithography. Altogether Bates created fifty-five lithographs.

1954 – married Charlotte Kintzle.

1954-1957 – worked on St. Mary’s Cathedral, Calgary. Consecration of the Cathedral took place on December 11th, 1957.

1957 – two-man show of lithographs with John H. Snow at New Design Gallery, Vancouver. Elected to the Canadian Group of Painters.

1958-1959 – travelled extensively in Europe with Charlotte.

1960 – Retrospective at the Norman Mackenzie Gallery.

1961 – one-man show, Calgary Allied Arts Centre. November 1961 – suffered a massive stroke: his left arm was paralyzed.

1962 – moved to Victoria, B.C. and devoted himself to his art.

1963 – one-man show, Ego Interiors, Victoria.

1964 – published Far-Away Flags, a book of Bates’s poetry.

1966 – Retrospective at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

1967 – one-man show at Bau-Xi Gallery, Vancouver.

1968 – Retrospective at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

1971 – founding member of the Limners group in Victoria. Received LL.D. from the University of Calgary. Became a member of the Royal Canadian Academy.

1973 – Retrospective at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

1976 – Retrospective at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

1978 – published A Wilderness of Days: An artist’s experiences as a prisoner of war in Germany. Suffered second stroke.

1980 – died September 14 in Victoria, B.C. Received an Order of Canada, C.M. posthumously.

Please see: Kathleen M. Snow, Maxwell Bates: Biography of an Artist (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1993).