Thelma Manarey

1913-84


I enjoy nature so, and there are things in the Alberta landscape that are worth depicting: trees, space, and the vast panoramic landscape. When there are no leaves on the trees, you get ‘the etching forms’ silhouetted against the sky and the ground, especially when the snow covers the fields. But the spiritual quality is the hardest thing to get.


Born in Edmonton, Thelma Manarey studied with Florence Mortimer before moving to Calgary to attend art school (1939-43). There she studied under H.G. Glyde RCA at the Institute of Technology and Art (now the Alberta College of Art & Design). Back in Edmonton she was part of a group of artists who worked with George Weber to learn the art of the serigraph. In the 1950s and 60s, she took part in numerous art workshops, including etching techniques with Harry Savage and then UofC organized workshops with Shane Weare and Andre Stasik. While in Toronto she learned stone lithography at the CPE print facilities (600 Markham Street). The stone lithograph Elevators, Nisku 1967 came out of this period (see image above). She attended summer and extensions courses at the Banff Centre School of Fine Arts, University of Washington and University of Alberta, as well as Emma Lake, Saskatchewan, in 1960 and 1963. There she studied with John Ferren and then Kenneth Noland respectively.

In 1950 Thelma Manarey was juried in as a member of the Edmonton Art Club. The Edmonton Art Club is the oldest continuing art organization in Alberta. She was a member of the Alberta Society of Artists (ASA) and taught art classes at the Edmonton Art Gallery as well as the Department of Extension at the University of Alberta, which offered her opportunity to teach in the rural areas, including in the Northwest Territories from 1956.

It was this travel which gave her access to rural spaces, which she connected to through the depiction of details such as groves of trees, the rhythm of undulating hills or and meanderings of a fence line. Although she did work with the figure and in the abstract using oils and acrylics, she is best known for her miniature etchings and other printmaking that she began to create in the late 1960s. Her primary concern regardless of subject was the technical depiction of negative and positive space, a dichotomy which she successfully united with her emphasis on line.

As to medium and technique, I've run the gamut all right; realism, impressionism, cubism, abstract expressionism - the lot. Each of these explorations took a large chunk out of my life and while I was doing it I figured "this is the greatest". Now, with the etchings, I feel I've come full circle from 1955.

She was an active member of the Alberta Society of Artists and held several offices, including Vice-President (1967-68), 'Highlights' Editor (1957) and Assistant Editor (1960, 1963). She lectured at the EAG from 1953, was on the council of the EAG 1967-69. For her contributions to the Society, she was awarded the designation of Life Member. She was very involved in the arts in Edmonton. In 1962, she was presented with an A.Y. Jackson painting as the prize for obtaining 68 new members for the Edmonton Art Gallery! In 1973, she received the Performing and Creative Arts Award, Visual Arts, from the city for her "outstanding contributions to the cultural life of Edmonton". She was also a member of the Canadian Society of Painters - Etchers and Engravers (CPE).

Selected Collections: Thelma Manarey's work was chosen for many government buildings in Canada and abroad; she was commissioned to paint several official government portraits. Her work is represented in numerous public, corporate and private collections, including Alberta House, London, England and the Edmonton Public School Board.

Reference:

Ainslie, Patricia and Mary-Beth Laviolette, Alberta Art and Artists. Calgary: Fifth House, 2007.

Cochran, Bente Roed, Printmaking in Alberta 1945-1985. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1989.

Greer, Joan, The Changing Picture, 65 Years of the Edmonton Art Club. Edmonton: Edmonton Art Club, 1987.