Elizabeth Ann Ashfield Woodburn (1865-1945)

Today, on International Women’s Day, the New Brunswick Museum would like to acknowledge Elizabeth Ann Ashfield Woodburn (1865-1945).

Elizabeth Ann Ashfield Woodburn was born on 9 October 1865 in Saint John, New Brunswick, and died there on 31 July 1945.  She was the daughter of James Ramsay Woodburn, a Scottish-born photographer, inventor and candy manufacturer, and Catherine Reid of Irish and United Empire Loyalist descent.

1991-4-3 - Watching
Elizabeth Ann Ashfield Woodburn (Canadian, 1865-1945)

after D. Riglio
painting: Watching, 1885-1890
oil on canvas
support: 102 x 76.5 cm
frame: 126 x 100 cm
Purchased with the assistance of the Viscount Bennett Trust Fund, 1991 (1991.4.3)
New Brunswick Museum Collection

1999-2(3) - Figure
Elizabeth Ann Ashfield Woodburn, Canadian, 1865-1945
painting: Study from Life, c. 1888
oil on canvas
overall: 70.2 x 55.5 cm
Purchase, 1999 (1999.2)
New Brunswick Museum Collection

“Annie” Woodburn’s artistic abilities were recognized very early – one of her first submissions to an exhibition, the 1880 Provincial Exhibition held in Saint John, caught the attention of the Daily Telegraph correspondent who considered her Callah (sic) Lilies to be “creditably painted”. (Saint John Daily Telegraph, 6 October 1880)

Still Life with Fruits
Elizabeth Ann Ashfield Woodburn, Canadian, 1865-1945
painting: Still Life with Fruit, 1899
watercolour over graphite on wove paper, laid down on board
support: 22.8 x 28.8 cm
mount: 32.9 x 39.2 cm
Purchased from the artist, 1942 (A45.754)
New Brunswick Museum Collection

In 1885, she enrolled at the Owens Art Institution in Saint John where she studied under principal, John Hammond  (1843-1939) and an advertisement for the Institute’s second term in 1886-1887 lists her as an assistant teacher.  She continued at the Institution until it closed in 1893 and participated in all of the annual and special exhibitions organized by the school.  After 1896, she became involved with the Women’s Art Association of Canada, Saint John Branch, and participated in their exhibitions.

Elizabeth Ann Ashfield Woodburn Sketching at Easel
Photographer Unknown
photograph: Elizabeth Ann Ashfield Woodburn Sketching at Easel, 1890-1900
albumen print
overall: 8.3 x 14 cm
New Brunswick Museum Collection (X9964)

Woodburn also spent some time studying at the Glasgow School of Art and Haldane Academy in Glasgow, Scotland, and with William Merritt Chase (1849-1916) at the New York School of Art.  She gave private lessons at her home between 1899 and 1910 and maintained a lifetime involvement with the Saint John Art Club.  In February 1909, her work was featured in an exhibition along with Marion Jack (1866-1954), at one of the Saint John Art Club’s monthly meetings.

Nevers_ Shop at Lower Jemseg, New Brunswick
Attributed to Elizabeth Ann Ashfield Woodburn (Canadian, 1865-1945)
photograph: Nevers’ Shop at Lower Jemseg, New Brunswick, c. 1900
albumen print
overall: 12.5 x 10 cm
New Brunswick Museum Collection (X11471)

In addition to drawing and painting, Woodburn had better than average photographic skills as revealed in some of her existing images.

Peter J. Larocque
Art Curator, New Brunswick Museum


Fred Ross

Fred Ross was born in Saint John, NB, on 12 May 1927. His contributions to New Brunswick’s art community spanned more than sixty-five years and he was one of the province’s most recognized and influential painters. Some of his formative art training took place under Violet Amy Gillett (1898-1996) and Ted Campbell (1904-1985) at the Saint John Vocational School in the mid-1940s. After completing two major mural projects, Ross was able to travel to Mexico to view the work of other muralists. Unable to obtain significant commissions for large-scale works, he turned to the work of Renaissance masters for inspiration and in 1953 travelled to Italy to study their work. Upon his return he taught in the art department of Saint John Vocational school until 1970 when he retired to paint full time. Throughout his career, Ross’ working method included an extensive review of the continuum of artistic developments as source material for his own work. To that end he developed and maintained an extensive research and comparative library of reference material.  Fred Ross died in Saint John on 19 August 2014.

A67-140 - Fred Ross - Boy with White Helmet
Boy with White Helmet, 1965
tempera and ink on Masonite
106 x 75 cm
Gift of Reeves & Sons Limited, 1967 (A67.140)

A significant component of Ross’ figurative work in the 1960s and 1970s explored the relationship among artist, subject and viewer and his work showed an affinity with Balthus [Balthasar Klossowski] (1908-2001) a French-born painter of Polish descent who worked primarily in Switzerland and who was one of the most important figurative painters of the twentieth century. In Ross’ 1965 painting, Boy with White Helmet, a handsome and confident motorcyclist in a black leather jacket evokes all the swagger associated with the coming of age of the post-WWII generation.

1995-21(3) - Fred Ross - Still Life with Pointe Shoes
Still Life with Pointe Shoes
, 1989
acrylic, casein tempera and pastel on board
102 x 71 cm
Gift of Vivian Campbell, 1995 (1995.21)

In the 1980s, Ross concentrated his efforts on the still-life making use of objects to symbolize the figure. Bathed in a soft and clear light, Fred Ross’ painting, Still Life with Pointe Shoes, is filled with allusions. There is a complex language superimposed on the obvious representation of objects in this image. These items can be interpreted as representations of masculinity and femininity or they may even refer to particular individuals. Ross’s fascination with the exotic patterning of the rug is contrasted with the three-dimensional volume and coldness of the decanter and the soft smoothness of the pointe shoes. With a minimum of colour, tone and form, Ross has conjured a masterful work that is filled with charm, mystery and timelessness.

Recently Conserved Paintings from the New Brunswick Museum Collection

A regular part of the care of a collection is the effort to ensure its preservation. Another facet of a museum’s goal is to share the collection with the public through exhibition. Sometimes objects are unable to be displayed because their condition compromises the artist’s intent or exposing them may actually cause more damage. Over the past thirty years the New Brunswick Museum was engaged in an ongoing fine art conservation project in conjunction with the Provincial Fine Art Conservation Laboratory located at the Owens Art Gallery in Sackville, New Brunswick. The works listed below have received recent conservation treatment by now-retired Fine Art Conservator of New Brunswick, Adam Karpowicz.

Most venerable museums have artifacts in their care that require some attention. Sometimes significant objects that merit preservation are acquired even though they may not be in prime display condition. Oftentimes the material used by artists, either the varnish or glazes, can deteriorate or change over time. Sometimes the methods used to frame a work may compromise the structure and appearance. Occasionally an item might sustain some accidental damage. Whatever the reason, in order to ensure the long term preservation of the work, an intervention is necessary.

These photos show the paintings before and after Adam Karpowicz applied conservation techniques. His work breathes new life into these paintings, ensuring that the artist’s intention is once again visible.

Kenneth Keith Forbes (Canadian, 1892 – 1980)
The Right Honourable Richard Bedford Bennett, Prime Minister of Canada (1930-1935), 1938
oil on canvas
Bequest of the Right Honourable Richard Bedford, Viscount Bennett, 1948 (1948.5)

Attributed to Thomas Hanford Wentworth (American, 1781 – 1849)
Portrait of an Unidentified Man
(Possibly Charles Humphrey), c. 1835
oil on canvas
New Brunswick Museum Collection (X16481)

John Christopher Miles (Canadian, 1832 – 1911)
Woodland Fishing Scene with Boy, c. 1880
oil on canvas
Gift of Kenneth Allison Wilson, 1954 (1954.165)


John Thomas Stanton (Canadian, c. 1815 – 1866)
after Richard Wilson (British, 1713 – 1782)
The Ruined Temple, 1856
oil on millboard
Purchase, 2004 (2004.13)


Artist Unknown (American School)
Bark Mary Rideout of St. Andrews, N.B., 1868
reverse-painted oil on glass
Purchase, 2010 (2010.36)

Michael Anderson (Scottish or Canadian, 1824 – 1853)
Aaron and Hur Staying Up the Hands of Moses during the Battle with the Amalekites at Rephidim, 1850
oil on canvas
Purchase, 1958 (A58.30)


John Christian Schetky (Scottish, 1778-1874)
Battle of the Chesapeake and the Shannon, c. 1815
oil on canvas
John Clarence Webster Canadiana Collection (W1609)

Albert Gallatin Hoit (American, 1809 – 1856)
Mary Ann (Maria) Street Berton Beckwith, 1837
oil on canvas
Gift of the Estate of Sir John Douglas Hazen, 1959 (1959.57)

Albert Gallatin Hoit (American, 1809 – 1856)
John Adolphus Beckwith, 1837
oil on canvas
Gift of the Estate of Sir John Douglas Hazen, 1959 (1959.56)


Marion Elizabeth Jack (Canadian, 1866 – 1954)
Apple Trees at Burton, New Brunswick, 1922-1930
oil on canvasboard
Gift of Catherine Coombes, 2008 (2008.27.1)

From Shetland to the Miramichi – Uncovering a Bedcover’s Heritage

Dr. Carol Christiansen, Curator and Community Museums Officer at the Shetland Museum and Archives, in her latest book, Taatit Rugs: the Pile Bedcovers of Shetland (published in 2015 by Shetland Amenity Trust – ISBN 978-0-9932740-4-6) features an unusual New Brunswick Museum (NBM) artifact – an embroidered counterpane (or bed rugg). Originally donated as a floor covering by Margaret Keay and Janet Keay in 1961, its real function as a bedcovering was explained in the early 1970s when it was included in an exhibition on American bed ruggs at the Wadsworth Athaneum in Hartford, Connecticut. It was also featured on a Canada Post stamp in 1993.

Taatit rugs
Dr. Carol Christiansen. (2015). Taatit Rugs: the Pile Bedcovers of Shetland. Shetland: Shetland Heritage Publications.

The counterpane’s unusual production method – a double-looped embroidery with a short pile rather than the more common hooking – makes it a unique survivor among the New Brunswick Museum’s extensive bedding collection. Dr. Christiansen’s research on the “heavy woollen woven bedcover (rug) to which threads (taats) have been applied” led her to this wonderful early example.  Her interest has greatly expanded our understanding of the complex histories associated with heritage objects and has provided a revealing glimpse of Scottish immigration to the province.

At the time of the counterpane’s donation to the NBM, it was said to have been used by a Hutchison family of the Miramichi region of New Brunswick.  Further inquiry revealed that the great-aunt of the donors was Elizabeth Stuart (Stewart) Mackie (c. 1817-1867) who married Richard Hutchison (1812-1891) of Douglastown, New Brunswick, on 20 March 1843.  Richard Hutchison was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and immigrated to New Brunswick in 1826.  Elizabeth Stuart Mackie is said to have been born in Aberdeen, Scotland – her father was Alexander Mackie (c. 1781-1858) a native of Leith who had lived in Aberdeen and his wife, Elizabeth Stuart (Stewart) (c. 1782-1854).  The 1851 census indicates that they had immigrated to New Brunswick in 1832. Though not conclusive, this certainly gives our bedcovering a very strong likelihood of originating in Scotland and it significantly enhances the New Brunswick Museum’s ability to represent and discuss aspects of cultural transfer in the mid-19th century in the province.


Maker Unknown (probably Scottish ?)
Counterpane (taatit rug or bed rugg), 1800-1850
Embroidered wool on tabby weave wool
221 x 157.5 cm
Provenance:  Used by the Hutchison family of Douglastown, New Brunswick [Probable line of family descent: Richard Hutchison (1812-1891) and Elizabeth Stuart Mackie Hutchison (c. 1817-1867); to her sister, Alexina Stuart Mackie Keay (1831-1909) and her husband, Reverend Peter Keay (1826-1873); to their son, Richard Hutchison Keay (1864-1944) and his wife, Ada Margaret Fraser Keay (1871-1957); to their daughters, Alexina Margaret Keay (1904-1987) and Janet Elder Keay (1913-2000)]
Gift of Margaret Keay and Janet Keay, 1961 (1961.42)
Collection of the New Brunswick Museum

Peter Larocque, Curator of New Brunswick Cultural History and Art, New Brunswick Museum



Cabinets of Wonder – Some Thoughts on Crustaceans and Molluscs

As New Brunswick’s provincial museum, the New Brunswick Museum partners with institutions and communities to collect, preserve, research and interpret material to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of New Brunswick provincially and globally. One such initiative is the Cabinets of Wonder exhibition at the Owens Art Gallery, Sackville, NB where a selection of the New Brunswick Museum’s collection of fine art, decorative art and scientific specimens complementing the exhibits from Mount Allison University’s collection are featured until 29 November 2015. The exhibition brings together art and science under common themes to showcase the fascinating relationships between these two disciplines.

Peter Larocque, NBM Curator of New Brunswick Cultural History and Art, curated the New Brunswick Museum display for Cabinets of Wonder. “The inspiration for the Cabinet of Wonder of the New Brunswick Museum comes from a small Jack Weldon Humphrey gouache painting, Crustaceans in the collection of the New Brunswick Museum”, said Peter Larocque. “Modest in its approach to abstraction, its shapes and colours suggest the creatures – crustaceans as well as molluscs – that are resident in the myriad niches found along the shoreline boundaries of Humphrey’s maritime painting places. Traditionally, within the conventions of various systems of symbolism, the attributes of tenacity, protection, fertility and resurrections are associated with the aquatic animals represented. One might argue that these traits also form a construct for considering museums themselves as well as the expectations inherent in their primary purposes – preservation, presentation and interpretation. The rationale for this tableau, then, is the relationship between the diversity of the artifacts and specimens found in the New Brunswick Museum collections and the institution’s role as a repository of material information, a maker of culture and as a place for the exchange of ideas.”

Jack Weldon Humphrey (Canadian, 1901-1967)
Crustaceans, 1952‑1953
brush and black ink with gouache on wove paper
support: 24.9 x 32.4 cm
Gift of Lawren Phillips Harris, 1987 (1987.21)

“The selection of objects for this cabinet speaks to the enduring part that the natural world plays as inspiration for styles and fashions in the fine and decorative arts”, said Peter Larocque. “The variety of ways that this is demonstrated is vast; objects might imitate natural forms, actual creatures (or sections of them) may be incorporated into an artifact, or natural items can be transformed by human agency.”

Belleek Pottery Company (Irish, founded in 1858)
Neptune pattern Tea Service, 1955‑1965
Overall: 14.5 x 22.5 cm [teapot], 6 x 10 cm (sugar bowl), 8.2 x 11.5 cm (creamer)
Gift of Frances Meltzer Geltman, 1995 (1995.46.4.1-3)

The above tea service is indicative of the ongoing fascination with natural forms and technical virtuosity. The pattern of these pieces, Neptune, reminds the viewer of classical mythology and a close association with the sea.

NBMG 3636
Phylum Mollusca, Class Cephalopoda
Overall: 13 x 12.4 x 4 cm
Location unknown
Donor and date unknown
From the collection of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick

The coiled shells of fossil ammonites are common in rocks of Jurassic and Cretaceous age. New Brunswick has few fossils from this part of geologic time, but the New Brunswick Museum collection has a few ammonite specimens, mostly donated by members of the Natural History Society of New Brunswick in the 19th century.

“Some items were chosen for their aesthetic value; others for the contemplation of their function”, he said. “In total, these specimens and objects are brought together as a record of the passage of time. They reflect the evidence of past millennia, reference classical mythology and are signposts of our conspicuous use of natural resources. This evocative combination of items calls attention not only to their innate allure but also to their fragility. Implied in this gathering is the location necessary for the enjoyment of close inspection and observation. What better way to envision the role of the museum?”

Maker Unknown (Barbados)
sailor’s valentine, c. 1830‑1880
cedrela wood, paper, cotton batting and glass
25.4 x 49.6 cm
Gift of Frederick G. Godard, (7085)

Produced from the early 19th century and celebrated for their intricacy and sentiment, sailor’s valentines have become synonymous with the separation and uncertainty that characterize seafaring life. Produced in the West Indies, particularly Barbados, these souvenirs were purchased by sailors passing through as conspicuous signs of affection for sweethearts and cherished family members.

Mrs. Lolar (Passamaquoddy)
Sea Urchin pattern basket, c. 1908
dyed and woven ash splints with sweetgrass
overall: 9 x 21 x 21 cm
Gift of Mrs. H.R. Wilson, 1909 (5197.2)

Composed of the finest splints of ash and twining plaits of sweetgrass, this basket reflects the Passamaquoddy First Nation’s intimate knowledge of sea life in their traditional territory along the northern coast of the Bay of Fundy.   It is based on the shape of abundant green sea urchin whose habitat includes the intertidal zone of the rocky shoreline.

Maker Unknown (Japanese)
Presentation Gift to Commemorate a Contribution to the Building of a New Church, Umikami County, Chiba Province, Japan, before 23 November 1925
Carved shell
overall: 19 x 22 x 2 cm
The Loretta L. Shaw Collection, 1939 (32622)

The surface of this shell lends itself to artistic expression. The natural shape of the shell is respected and enhanced with the addition of koi subtly carved into the lustrous bands of nacre. The combination of imagery and material denote perseverance and strength – appropriate as a gift to a Canadian missionary intent on bringing Western-style education to Japan.

The NBM Quilt Collection: Stories from the 18th Century to Contemporary New Brunswick

Quilts tell stories, especially those of their makers. The New Brunswick Museum is fortunate enough to have a collection of these stories stretching from the twenty first century all the way back to the 1700s.

The NBM acquired its first piece of bedding in 1927 and has since acquired 411 quilts among other bedding items. Back when the NBM quilt collection was in its infancy, quilts were generally seen as quaint home furnishings: records of the colonial era or pioneering spirit. A tradition in New Brunswick that a woman prepare a dozen practical quilts and a 13th elaborate quilt for her trousseau meant that quilts were common household items.

photo 1

The oldest quilt in the NBM Collection. Maker Unknown, 1770-1800    (found in Campobello, Charlotte County, New Brunswick). The John Corey Domestic Textiles Collection, 2003. Hand-sewn and hand-quilted wool whole cloth with wool batting.

It wasn’t until the 1960s and 70s that quilts were viewed with newfound importance, as a revival in quilt making corresponded with the feminist movement.

“Now we look at quilts in a far broader way […] as one of the ways that we hear women’s voices from the past,” said Peter Larocque, NBM Curator, New Brunswick Cultural History and Art.

“As quilts are examined more and more, we’re able to gain access to how women lived, how they worked, how they communicated. So those quilts have become more than just objects, they’ve become statements.”

Photo 2Photo 3

A crazy quilt by Violette Emily Dibblee and Carlysle Eulalie Hopkins, Saint John New Brunswick 1886-1888. Gift of V. Hazel Dibblee, 1952.
Violette Emily Casey married Beverley Newton Howard Dibblee on 29 March 1886 in Saint John, New Brunswick. This unusual quilt incorporates portraits of “Vie” and “Bev” in the form of photographic images printed on silk.

Photo 4Photo 5Photo 6

Quilt by Celia Elizabeth Lapointe and William Edward Lapointe, St. Marys, York County, New Brunswick, 1940-1950. Gift of Susan Steen, in memory of Celia Elizabeth Whitlock Lapointe and William Edward Lapointe, 2009.
This quilt was a joint project of husband and wife. He did the drawings onto the pieces and she embroidered them and made them into a quilt. Cartoon characters featured include (left to right) Popeye and “Der Inspector” from the Katzenjammer Kids.

Many of the NBM’s quilts were donations of John J. Corey, a historical consultant from Butternut Ridge, Havelock, who developed a specialization and interest in textiles. Corey not only collected historical quilts, but also designed quilts and had them produced. For example, the below quilt on the left is a historic quilt by Tressa Annie Thorne, while the quilt on the right was designed by Corey and appliquéd by Retta Lucy Hicks based in the earlier quilt.

Photo 7 Photo 8

Left: Tulips Quilt by Tressa Annie Thorne, 1920-1930. John Corey Domestic Textiles Collection, 2003.
Right : Tulips Quilt , appliquéd by Retta Lucy Hicks after Tressa Annie Thorne. Quilted by Middle Sackville Baptist Ladies’ Aid, 1970-1985. Gift of John J. Corey, 2013.

While the NBM has a superb collection of historical quilts, it’s also working to keep the collection up to date with contemporary New Brunswick quilting. Late member of the Marco Polo Quilters Guild Kathy Coffin approached the NBM about adding a contemporary quilt to the museum collection every two years through the guild’s biannual show. Coffin designed and sold a block based on the provincial flower and used the funds from the pattern to purchase the first piece for the biennial, juried New Brunswick Contemporary Quilt Award.

Photo 9 Photo 10Photo 11

The First three winners of the New Brunswick Contemporary Quilt Award.
 Left: Railways in a Northern Land by Donna K. Young, Fredericton, NB, 2004. Marco Polo Quilters’ Guild New Brunswick Contemporary Quilt Award, 2011.
Centre: When Compasses Collide by Juanita Allain, Riverview, NB, 2002-2006. After Sheila Wintle. New Brunswick Contemporary Quilt Award, purchased with funds provided by The Marco Polo Quilters Guild, Donna K. Young Marilyn Peabody, Maggie Coffin Prowse and the Fundy Sewing Guild, 2013.
 Right: Baltimore Bouquet by Gail Fearon, New Line, NB, 2011. After Mimi Dietrich. New Brunswick Contemporary Quilt Award, purchased with funds provided by Juanita Allain, Marilyn Peabody, the Woodstock Quilt Guild and John J. Corey, 2015.

The most recent winner of the award was Baltimore Bouquet by Gail Fearon of New Line, New Brunswick. This quilt is based on a mid-19th century style of quilt that incorporated a sampling of different blocks. Called Baltimore Album quilts, they became extremely fashionable along the eastern seaboard. This quilt is an especially valuable addition to the NBM collection since there are no historic examples of Baltimore Album quilts represented in the collection.

Photo 12

Baltimore Bouquet on display at the NBM with (left to right) Gail Fearon, award recipient; Carolyn Wishart, President of the Marco Polo Quilters’ Guild; Peter J. Larocque, NBM Curator, New Brunswick Cultural History and Art.