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Henry George Glyde

In September 1935, Henry George Glyde and his wife Hilda and daughter Helen arrived in Calgary. Glyde had been invited by the painter A.C. Leighton to join the faculty at the Provincial Institute of Technology. Glyde and his family had arranged a one year leave of absence from his position in England at the High Wycombe School of Art, intending to stay only one year.

In what turned out to be thirty years of teaching and more than sixty years of painting, H.G. Glyde was the most important individual in the development of art teaching in Alberta. Within a year of his arrival in Calgary, he was head of the art department (at what would eventually become the Alberta College of Art and Design). He was also head of the division of the Banff School of Fine Arts (1936-66).

In 1937 he taught community art classes with the Department of Extension at the University of Alberta, traveling to to Vegreville, Vermilion, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and Peace River. Each community would establish a painting group, compelling Glyde to travel and teach, revelling in his exposure to the Alberta landscape. In 1946, Glyde founded the Division of Fine Art at the U of A and taught there between 1946 and 1966.

The subjects of Glyde's most interesting and significant works are the oils and murals that document urban and rural prairie life, a style known as social realism. Glyde was painting at a time of dynamic change in Alberta. The largely agricultural province was becoming more mobile and urbanized in the aftermath of World War II and the discovery of oil at Leduc in 1948. Several of Glyde's paintings reflect this transition. His murals, such as Alberta History (situated in Rutherford Hall at the University of Alberta), have sombre colours and figures that are mythological and symbolic in mood and content, reflecting Glyde's ability in classical techniques.

Grain elevators were common figures in works such as The Exodus and Aftermath. Glyde called them "Cathedrals of the Prairies" and likened them to the church spires of England that marked towns and villages from a distance. Glyde admired the simple and functional architecture of these structures, giving a point of defintion to Alberta's small towns and hamlets.

Glyde was born in Luton, England in 1906. He studied art, contrary to his family's wishes, at schools such as the Royal College of Art in London. While his art developed in accord with artistic concepts of the 1920s in England, Glyde was committed to birthing a truly Albertan and Canadian style, based on the people and landscape of the region.

In 1982, he was awarded an honourary Doctorate of Law by the University of Alberta in recognizing his dedication and contribution to the visual arts in Alberta. A major retrospective exhibition was produced by the Glenbow Museum in 1987. Henry George Glyde died in Victoria on March 31st, 1998. 

Source: Ainslie, Patricia. A Lifelong Journey: The Art and Teaching of H.G. Glyde.  Glenbow Museum, Calgary, 1987

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