Don Frache

1919-94

Frache’s oeuvre covered a wide range of subject matter, although his primary love was landscape and western history, he also painted a sizeable number of portraits. He was part of an early group of artists who took serious the development of a truly western based/Alberta art practice. Frache’s talent as a painter allowed him to depict contemporary Alberta and Albertans as well as recreating early scenes of settlement and development for those collectors hungry for images of Western Canada. His watercolors and oils offer images of the diversity of ranchland, farmland, mountains, forest, and prairie that make up the Western Canadian landscape. His palette displays the rich earthy colors and wide range of tonal values of those environments.

Don Frache came to the Lethbridge District from Grand Forks, British Columbia with his family in 1919; in 1922 the Frache family founded the Frache Brother’s Greenhouses, which became a prominent business in the area for a great many years. Frache attended Catholic Central School and Lethbridge Collegiate Institute in Lethbridge before he went on to study commercial and fine arts at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, California. He then worked in New York and Toronto as a freelance artist, working for businesses such as Bow Mac Engravers and producing work for the Ladies Home Journal, Liberty, and like publications. He returned to Southern Alberta in 1949.

Briefly in the early 1950s he ran Frache Brother’s Flower Shop (322-6th St. S. Lethbridge, Alberta) an offshoot of the family’s greenhouse business. He left to become a full time artist. Frache maintained artist studios in Lethbridge (two studios: first 1951-56, second 1956-68) and then in Coaldale, Alberta (1969-82). In 1944 Don married Louise McGee and was predeceased by her in 1968; he married his second wife Dorothy in 1968 (divorced 1978); and then Cecille in 1980. Frache continued to live in Coaldale until his death in June 1994.

Don Frache was commissioned to paint many murals in Alberta. His Past, Present and Future, completed in 1956 was originally housed at McCall Field - the early airport in Calgary. This mural was severely damaged in its removal during a renovation of the airport facility. A replica, painted by Frache in the late 1970s/early 1980s, now hangs in the Calgary Airport, Departure Gate 25A; his second mural was commissioned for the Aquacourt Government Pool, Radium Hot Springs (now a Federal Heritage Site); Frache’s Kootenai Brown mural is in the Heritage Centre in Waterton Lakes National Park; he completed murals at the Science Research Council Building, University of Alberta and First United Church, Regina.