John Innes

John Innes was born in London, Ontario in 1863, the son of George Mignon and Elizabeth Ann (Clarke) Innes. He died in Vancouver in 1941, after a long and distinguished career as an artist, author, illustrator, cartoonist, publisher, and correspondant. His artwork was published extensively throughout North America for many years, and during his employment in New York City for the Hearst publishing company.

He was an early and important artist in British Columbia history, arriving here in the early 1880s after surveying for the Canadian Pacific Railway then under construction. He served in the Boer War with the Second Canadian Mounted Rifles, awarded a medal and three clasps.

He painted and worked as a commercial artist in Vancouver from 1913 until his death in 1941, in addition to his fine art painting career. He had a one-man exhibition at the Hotel Vancouver in 1915, showing sixteen canvasses in an exhibition titled "Chunks of the Western Epic". He also exhibited with the B.C. Society of Fine Artists, the Ontario Society of Artists, the Royal Canadian Academy, and at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exhibition in St. Louis. He also designed the posters for the 1919 Victory Loan campaign in British Columbia.

Innes was a major contributor to the 1918 and 1919 issues of The Gold Stripe, published in Vancouver to honor the men who fought in "The Great War". In addition to his many pen & ink illustrations in the two volumes, there is a short biography of Innes titled "John Innes - Author, Artist, Soldier, Cowboy". The article includes a photograph of Innes.

In 1920 Innes was a founding member of the B.C. Art League. He was listed as a member of the B.C. Society of Fine Arts for only two years, 1921 and 1922. In 1926 Innes contributed two pen and ink drawings to the limited edition publication Chinook Days, by Tom McInnes.

By 1928 Innes had found a sponsor who provided the funding that enable him to complete his art epic, partially displayed earlier in "Chunks of the Western Epic", that resulted in reproductions of the series being used as illustrations for The Epic of Western Canada published in 1928, and for From Trail to Trail - the Epic of Transportation, published in 1930.

Innes had a solo exhibition of eight paintings at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 1933. Following the exhibition the paintings were hung at the University of British Columbia.

In 1936 Innes provided an extensive range of illustrations for the school reader The King's Wish, the third volume of the Far Horizons series published by J.M. Dent & Sons of Toronto. He provided one full page colour frontispiece entitled "White Cloud", seven full page and one half page pen and ink drawings, and over forty page header and page break pen and ink drawings. A number of chapter and page footer drawings in the book may be by Innes or by others. The wide range of subject matter illustrated by Innes show him to be an accomplished master of pen and ink drawing, Fairies Dancing Just Before Going to Sleep for the Winter is an excellent example of his work.

In The King's Wish Innes alternately signs his drawings in full as "John Innes", usually underlined, or with a monogram. The monogram is a black capital I, in a white field surrounded by an outline that is somewhat shield shaped, flat on top and pointed at the bottom. This stands out when signed on white areas of a drawing, alternately the inner white field and the capital I stand out when signed in a black or shaded area of a drawing.

Available artwork: 
Whoop-La! by John  Innes
Signed and dated in the plate, and stamped in margin. 
Etching, 10.5 x 15.75
Loch Gallery, Calgary
Artist origin: 
Artist type: 
Historical works of significance


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