E. J. Hughes

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Edward John Hughes CM OBC (February 17, 1913 – January 5, 2007) was a Canadian artist.

Hughes was born in North Vancouver, British Columbia, and spent a significant part of his childhood in Nanaimo, British Columbia. Raised during the Depression he studied at the Vancouver School of Applied Art and Design where he graduated in 1933. His talent was recognized early, one of his teachers was Frederick Varley of the Group of Seven (artists), and another member, Lawren Harris, recommended him for the inaugural Emily Carr Scholarship.

In 1934 he formed a partnership with the muralist Paul Goranson and Orville Fisher in a commercial art firm.[1]

Hughes died of cardiac arrest in Duncan, BC at the age of 93.[2]

World War II[edit]

When World War II began in 1939, he enlisted with the Royal Canadian Artillery as a gunner and was posted to England. From 1943 to 1946, he served as one of Canada's official war artists.[3] Hughes traveled to England and Alaska where he depicted concern for ordinary men caught up in the worldwide event.

Post-War period[edit]

After being discharged from the military in 1946 he returned to the west coast of Canada with his wife Fern and settled in Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island. Hughes spent much of the remainder of his life living on Vancouver Island where he pursued a lifelong study of the province and its landscape as a professional artist.

In the 1950s Hughes reputation grew, especially after he began to be represented by Max Stern, the owner of the Dominion Gallery in Montreal.[citation needed] In 1954 he was one of eighteen Canadian artists commissioned by the Canadian Pacific Railway to paint a mural for the interior of one of the new Park cars entering service on the new Canadian transcontinental train. Each the murals depicted a different national or provincial park; Hughes' was Tweedsmuir Provincial Park.[4] In 1992, Canada Post used one of his images ("Christie Pass, Hurst Island, B,C.") on a stamp commemorating 125 years of Confederation.[citation needed]


Hughes’ paintings are best known for their strong and appealing images of the landscape and seascape of British Columbia. Jack Shadbolt described Hughes as "the most engaging intuitive painter of the BC landscape since Emily Carr." His distinctive style of painting is marked by the use of flattened space, skewed perspective and simplified shapes. The paintings combine compelling clarity with a sense of the unknown and an appreciation for natural surroundings.

Hughes was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1968. Hughes was awarded with Honorary Doctorates from the University of Victoria in 1994 and the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 1997.[5]

In 2001, he received the Order of Canada and in 2005 he was awarded the Order of British Columbia. Both of the latter awards cited his dedication to representing Canada with passion and originality.

The Vancouver Art Gallery has the most extensive holding of Hughes' work in public hands and mounted a major retrospective exhibition in 2003.[6]

His painting Lake Okanagan was purchased at a rural Ontario yard sale for C$200. Six years later, in 2007, the purchaser sold it at auction for $402,500.[7][8][9]


  • "E. J. Hughes", by Ian Thom (Senior curator, Vancouver Art Gallery). A 226 page hardcover book published by Douglas & McIntyre and the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2002. ISBN 1-55054-899-9. This book was the catologue for the E. J. Hughes exhibition which could be seen at the Vancouver Art Gallery and later at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario, and also at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
  • A Journey with E.J. Hughes, By Jacques Barbeau, 2005 180-page hardcover, Douglas & McIntyre

ISBN 1-55365-153-7


EJ Hughes Restoration: Triumph over hard times," is a 2009 HD documentary on the life of EJ Hughes and the restoration of his Malaspina mural, a large 9x12 foot work of art now worth over 4 million dollars. The documentary was nominated for a Leo Award, and won a Gold Remi from the Huston International Film festival.


  1. ^ E.J. Hughes - The Art History Archive, retrieved on May 16, 2007.
  2. ^ B.C. painter E.J. Hughes dies, by CBC Arts, www.cbc.ca, retrieved on May 15, 2007.
  3. ^ Canadian Artist - E.J. Hughes, www.warmuseum.ca, retrieved on May 15, 2007.
  4. ^ "The 50th Anniversary of the CPR Stainless Steel Passenger Fleet" (PDF). Canadian Rail (503): 211–223. November–December 2004. 
  5. ^ About the Artist, www.artists4kids.com, retrieved on May 15th 2007
  6. ^ Indepth Arts News: "E.J. Hughes: Work from the Early 1930s to Present", www.absolutearts.com, retrieved on May 15th 2007
  7. ^ Painting found at yard sale slated to fetch over $100,000 for Ontario couple, by Michelle McQuigge of Canadian Press, www.cbc.ca, retrieved on May 15th 2007
  8. ^ Rare E.J. Hughes and Emily Carr Paintings to Sell in Upcoming Spring Auction, News Release, www.heffel.com, May 4, 2007, retrieved on May 15th 2007.
  9. ^ Heffel's $22.8-million Fine Art Auction Sets New Bench Mark as Best Canadian Auction, News release, Heffel.com, May 24, 2007, retrieved on May 27, 2007

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