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Gordon Smith June 18, 1919 - January 18, 2020

Gordon Smith, B.C.-based painter, educator, art champion, dead at 100

Originally published by The Canadian Press on January 20, 2020

VANCOUVER — Gordon Smith, a painter, philanthropist and educator based in British Columbia, has died.

Vancouver's Equinox Gallery says the celebrated artist, who dedicated his life to the arts and mentoring new talent, died Saturday. He was 100.

The gallery says the English-born Smith came to Winnipeg in 1933 and studied at the Winnipeg School of Art. He had his first professional exhibition in 1938.

In 1941, he served in the Second World War with the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, and then went on to teach at the University of British Columbia until 1982.

His dedication to new talent included the Gordon and Marion Smith Foundation for Young Artists, which he founded with his late wife Marion Fleming. Smith's various awards include the Order of Canada, the Order of British Columbia, the Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts and the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts.

The Equinox Gallery, where Smith held more than 25 solo exhibitions, says a memorial in his honour will be announced at a future date.

"A key figure in Canadian art, Smith lived his life with a generosity and grace that was a gift to the world," the gallery said in a statement.

"Gordon Smith, an exceptional artist and uniquely generous human being, will be greatly missed by all who had the privilege to know him."

Smith's works are held in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England, among others.

B.C. Premier John Horgan said the cultural community lost an icon, whose seven-decade career won international recognition.

"Smith was vocal and passionate about the social value of art," he said in a statement. "His legacy will continue to influence and inspire future generations of artists through the Gordon and Marion Smith Foundation for Young Artists and the Artists for Kids program in North Vancouver."

Smith was passionate about art education and first taught at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. At the age of 27, he became a graphic design instructor at the Vancouver School of Art, now Emily Carr University.

In 1956, he was hired as the University of British Columbia's first instructor in the art education department.

"My students came out, hopefully, they became more creative, more inventive people. I learned from my students, I respected my students. I had great people, whether it was a Grade 6 class or if it was a fourth-year painting class." he said in a video interview posted online by the university's faculty of education in 2012.  

"You've got to have passion about this. If you're a writer, you've got to know something about how to write. If you're a musician, you've got to know something about music, you've got to be passionate, not just contemporary music, but music of the past." he said. "In art, you've got to know more about the history of art, the history of architecture."

Smith said his best advice to a potential artist was to keep an open mind.

"It's not going to look to a piece of pop music and say that's junk," he said. "Go around and look at every kind of art that's being produced, all things from conceptual art to figurative art."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2020.

The Canadian Press

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