Don Frache

1919-94

Don Frache’s oeuvre (body of work) covers a wide range of subject matter, although his primary love was landscape and western history, he also painted a sizeable number of portraits and murals.

Frache was part of an early group of artists who took serious the development of a truly western based/Alberta art practice. His 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 context. His palette displays the rich earthy colors and wide range of tonal values of those environments.

Don Frache was commissioned to paint many portraits and murals in Alberta. His mural, Past, Present and Future (1956), was at McCall Field - the early airport in Calgary. It was severely damaged during renovations therefore Frache was commissioned to paint its replica in the late 1970s/early 1980s, this version hung at the Calgary Airport, Departure Gate 25A until the most recent renovation of the airport terminal in 2016; his second commission was for the Aquacourt Government Pool, Radium Hot Springs (now a Federal Heritage Site); he completed murals at the Science Research Council Building, University of Alberta and First United Church, Regina, as well as Banff’s Cave & Basin National Historic Site. Although not commissioned, Frache’s Kootenai Brown mural (1954), which briefly hung in the Paramount Theatre (Lethbridge) during the screening of the Marilyn Monroe/Robert Mitchum movie River Of No Return, was purchased in 1990 by the Waterton Lakes Natural History Association (WNHA) for their Heritage Centre in Waterton Lakes National Park, it hung there until the Association was disbanded in 2017.

In 1919 Don Frache’s family moved to the Lethbridge District from Grand Forks, British Columbia; in 1922 they founded the Frache Brother’s Greenhouses, which was a prominent business for a great many years. Frache attended Catholic Central School and Lethbridge Collegiate Institute before studying 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 managed 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.