In addition to a career as an arts administrator and involvement at the executive level with various art associations, Percy Henson was an artist. He painted, worked and experimented with oils and with printmaking.
As a printmaker he was noted to have worked with serigraphy and relief (lino and woodcut) technique. Often his subject was landscape; likewise Henson depicted urbanscapes as well as non-objective images. Cochran indicates an influence of `modern abstract design` and that his `paintings and sketches of landmarks in Edmonton and vicinity were highly regarded (16).`
Born in Three Bridges, Sussex, England in 1890, Percy Henson came to Canada in 1913, settling in Calgary where he operated a barber shop and became active with the Young Men's Christian Association. He moved to St. Catharine’s and then to Windsor, Ontario as General Secretary of the YMCA. In that capacity he opened a YMCA in Sidney, Nova Scotia (1939). After a number of years in Lethbridge, Alberta, in the late 1940s, he finished out his career with the YMCA.
Percy Henson came to art late in life. He began painting at the age of fifty while he lived in Sidney, where he was involved in the Sydney Art Club, and later received art education at summer schools at the Ontario College of Art (studying under J.W. Beatty) and at the Banff School of Fine Arts. Henson was an active member during the formative years of the Sketch Club in Lethbridge (founded in 1936). In 1951, still in Lethbridge, he helped initiate a cabin camp near Lundbreck Falls; versions of this artist’s retreat still take place. An Honorary Member of the Edmonton Art Club (EAC), a Life Member of the Alberta Society of Artists (ASA) and a member of the Society of Canadian Painter-Etchers and Engravers (CPE), Percy Henson was noted for his active involvement with the visual arts. He was Editor of the ASA Highlights newsletter in 1956 and 1959 and Vice-President of that Society from 1957 to 1959. Henson’s prints were exhibited in the annual exhibitions of CPE in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
From 1951 to 1964, he was Director of the Edmonton Art Gallery (previously Secord House and Edmonton Museum of Art respectively), now the Art Gallery of Alberta. With his retirement from the Edmonton Art Gallery, he became an instructor in landscape painting with the Department of Extension, University of Alberta.
Percy Henson received the Performing and Creative Arts Award, Visual Arts, City of Edmonton for outstanding contributions to the cultural life of the city.
Cochran, Bente Roed. Printmaking In Alberta 1945-1985. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1989.
Edmonton Art Club. The Changing Picture: 65 Years of the Edmonton Art Club. Edmonton: Co-Op Press, 1987.