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Maxwell Bates


(Canadian, 1906 - 1980)

"I knew I wanted to do things simply and intensely and as directly as possible, and I've never changed from that idea."(1)

Maxwell Bates was born in Calgary, Alberta in 1906. Early in his youth he began his art education by reading everything he could about art and continued his education at Calgary's Provincial Institutie of Technology and Art from 1926-1927. Besides his studies in art Maxwell Bates worked as an architect in his father's firm. Bates' art career led him to London where he painted, exhibited his work, and wrote poetry. While in London Bates joined the Twenties Group, which was sponsored by the Wertheim's Gallery and was designed to exhibit works by artists in their twenties without charging the usual subscriptions or fees for exhibiting(2). Bates also worked as an architect in London, and through his connections there was able to attend meetings of the Art Workers' Guild(3). During WWII, bates set aside his art and architecture and enlisted, eventually spending five years (1940-1945) in a German POW camp. After the war Bates returned to Calgary and again joined his father's architecture firm, with his most notable contribution to Calgary architecture being his collaboration on St. Mary's Cathedral in 1954. In 1949-1950 Bates went to New York to attend the Brooklyn Museum Art School under Max Beckman who greatly influenced Bates. In 1961 Maxwell moved to Victoria where he lived and worked till his death in 1980.

Illustration: The Family, 1960, Oil on canvas

(1) Ian M. Thomas, Maxwell Bates in Retrospective 1921-1971 (Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, 1972/73), p. 13.

(2) Kathleen M. Snow, Maxwell Bates: biography of an artist (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1993), p. 20.

(3) Ibid., p. 25.