Works of W.F. Stidworthy on exhibit at Gibson Gallery thanks to local collector

Stan Bergeron

By Ron Giofu

 

Stan Bergeron’s collection of W.F. Stidworthy paintings began with one that he received 40 years ago.

About six years ago, he started wondering if there were any more Stidworthy paintings around and now the collection sits at 136 paintings.

Bergeron knew Stidworthy as the latter lived in LaSalle with the local collector also pointing out the artist is buried in St. John Anglican cemetery in Windsor’s west end.

“I’m just here to keep his legacy going,” Bergeron explained. “I haven’t sold any of them.”

The oldest painting in Bergeron’s collection of Stidworthy works dates back to 1928. He has also been in contact with 107 people who own 387 of Stidworthy’s paintings but those people won’t part with the works for sentimental reasons. His contacts range from people in Windsor-Essex County to as far as Las Vegas and British Columbia.

While Bergeron has reached out to people far and wide, Stidworthy travelled far and wide to paint as well. In addition to painting in various locations across Ontario, Stidworthy painted in Ohio, Saskatchewan, California, Michigan, Alberta, British Columbia and England.

“He painted all over the place,” said Bergeron. “He just painted everything he saw. Each one has a little story.”

Stidworthy lived in Alberta and British Columbia after immigrating to Canada from England. Originally born in England in 1889, Stidworthy took advanced art training at Torquay School of Art and the Polytechnic School in Chelsea, England. He moved to British Columbia in 1912 and studied under artists William Beatty, Ralph MacMillan, Carl Schaefer and Franz Johnson, the latter being a member of the famed “Group of Seven.”

Stidworthy also held numerous one-man shows since 1937. He appeared at the Gibson Gallery in 1975.

Bergeron stated that Stidworthy held many exhibitions of his work at the University of Windsor with many professors purchasing his work. Whoever became in contact with Stidworthy also became frequent recipients of his work.

“He was a very generous man,” said Bergeron. “He loved to make people happy and as a result, it would make him happy.”

Two of Stidworthy’s works also hang in the Essex Civic Centre in Essex.

Approximately 74 paintings are part of the Gibson Gallery exhibit. Also included is a 1901 photo of a 12-year-old Stidworthy (he died in 1977) that was authenticated by his daughter Phyllis.

Bergeron’s connection with Stidworthy is a personal one, as he knew him. His collection started “all of a sudden” with the idea to place ads in local newspapers seeing if anyone had any Stidworthy paintings they would sell him.

“A couple more turned out to be 136,” said Bergeron. “If it was reasonable, I bought it.”

Having known Stidworthy is the motivation for his drive to collect the works.

“Having known Mr. Stidworthy gives me a close attachment that seems to give me the drive to pursue the search for as many paintings as possible,” said Bergeron. “I will not purchase all of them but knowing who has them gives me a good feeling that other people are enjoying the beauty given by a great man.”

Bergeron adds that he has cancer so the collection offers him a good distraction from that.

“Some day I hope the collection will find a gallery that will be able to preserve it indefinitely,” he said. “Until then, I will continue to search for as many pieces as possible.”

The current exhibit runs at the Gibson Gallery through Aug. 11. Bergeron plans on more exhibits within Essex County next year, including one in Kingsville in June 2014 before having another exhibit at the Leamington Arts Centre in July 2014.

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