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The Life and Art of Harry and Jessie Webb

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by Adrienne Brown

Mother Tongue Publishing, Salt Spring Island, B.C., 2014
140 pp., illus., $34.95 paperback

Adrienne Brown’s new book will make an excellent addition to the libraries of readers with an interest in Canadian art and artists. Brown, the daughter of Harry and Jessie Webb, reflects on the lives of her parents, the work they produced, and the contexts from which they drew their inspiration.

The couple met at the Vancouver School of Art in the late 1940s and were part of the dynamic beat generation of the fifties. They involved themselves in the literary arts magazine pm, were founding members of the Cellar Jazz Club, and worked on their craft, experimenting with various media but ultimately focusing on progressive linocuts. After a few years of living a bohemian lifestyle, Harry began a career as a landscape architect, which allowed him to exercise his creativity and influenced his work as an artist. Both of the Webbs continued to produce art and, after seven years of marriage, decided to have a child.

The book includes excerpts from letters, diaries, and articles; family photographs; and examples of Harry’s and Jessie’s art (printed in full colour) and poetry. Their story is enriched by Brown’s personal recollections of her parents and her experience of her mother’s battle with depression, her parents’ gradual estrangement, their eventual divorce, and their passing.

Sensitively told and visually pleasing, this touching biography of a talented but little-known artist couple contributes to the larger history of art in British Columbia.

— Kathryn Boschmann (Read bio)

Kathryn Boschmann is a graduate student in history at Carleton University.


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