This work represents a scene from Revelstoke National Park, British Columbia In 1953 Irvine received a cash prize of $25 for "Ghosts of the Timberline," a pastel submitted to the National Amateur Art Festival Competition held in New York's 69th Regiment Armory. The exhibit was sponsored by the Amateur Artists Association of America. Irvine was the recipient of the "Famous Artists Course Award."
An exhibition of watercolours by Miss HM Duke was held at the Royal Anne Hotel in Kelowna, BC in 1954 and featured six pastels by Irvine including "The Dancing Cloud" and "Ghosts of the Timberline." In 1957 the Pastel Society Exhibition at the Royal Institute Galleries in London, England beckoned. Irvine's "Four Generations" and "Ghosts of the Timberline" were submitted and accepted.
The Pastel Society, a registered charity, is widely recognized for its success in promoting and encouraging the use of pastel within the contemporary art world. The Society was founded in 1898, and the first exhibition was held in the Royal Institute in Piccadilly, England. Founding members and early exhibitors included Sir Frank William Brangwyn RA RWS RBA (1867 -1956), Edgar Degas (1834 - 1917), Auguste Rodin (1840 – 1917) and James Abbott McNeill Whistler (1834 – 1903).
As reported in the Penticton Herald, "The 5 ½ inch by 9 ½ inch print is small by Adams' standards but its simple lines show clear perception and gentle strength."
During the 1960s, Irvine was attempting to get away from traditional landscapes and trying something a little different; "more modern with the times." He painted "Silver Thaw" depicting ice-covered branches over a creek. "Silver Thaw" was juried into the Summer Salon hosted by the Royal Institute Galleries in London, 1962. Others of the same period included "Crazy Creek Falls," "Transition" and "Weathered Wardens." Irvine referred to these paintings as "the abstract in nature." Said Irvine, "I don't get the right feeling from a lot of experimental art for this reason; it seems to me a lot of these artists simply haven't got the humility that goes with painting a landscape for they are saying, 'I can produce something that is going to outdo nature.' There is no way."
Even though Irvine was working at the logging camps in the 1950s, he devoted as much time as possible to his art. In 1950 Irvine successfully entered three of his works in an exhibition, the third International Juried Art Show in Kelowna, BC. "The Ramparts," "Two Trees at Dawn" and "Peach Orchard in Winter" were accepted into the show. One of his earlier pastels was "From Peach Orchard Cemetery." The cemetery was not far from Irvine's home and perched on this bench, with a beautiful view of Okanagan Lake and the silt bluffs to the north, Irvine was able to catch the many moods of the Okanagan.
In talking about this work in particular the artists’ nephew Brian Adams recalls: “It's a painting that's started and all but the foreground has been finished and it's a painting that he, a view that he used many, many times and it's from the Summerland Cemetery looking at the Okanagan Mountain which is now the Okanagan Mountain Park. Some people don't even know it's not finished when they look at it because certainly the mountains and the cliffs that he's got done are his signature as far as I'm concerned and like I say, that view was particularly one that he did many, many pictures of; different seasons, different hues of light, different cloud formations, but basically all the same, the same view. And of course ironically, after many years Aunt Doreen with the Okanagan Similkameen Parks Society managed to preserve that view, hopefully without too many more forest fires, as a park so they corroborated, collaborated in that way, I suppose."
In 1982 Irvine Adams created his last work, "A Medieval Touch." Said Irvine, "I returned to that place only a couple of times but I'm glad I did that because now it's for posterity because half of that cliff slid into the lake. That's below Munson Mountain, just below the cemetery in Penticton." The Kelowna Courier (quoting Bill Barlee) wrote, "His landscapes, with their delicate nuances of light and shadow, color and subtle detail capture the indelible Okanagan country at its best. An Adams painting carries a visual and emotional impact; it is the smell of sagebrush, a walk up an arid draw, a moment of nostalgia, for this rare individual succeeds magnificently where others fall short. His work brings to the fore the explicit meaning of realism and reveals the integrity of the artist who is true to his philosophy."
This piece was part of a series of works commissioned by the late Bill Barlee (1932 – 2012) for his local history magazine "Canada West"
The Alamo mine, staked in 1892 during the initial Silvery Slocan rush, was worked off and on for 40 years along with an adjoining claim, the Idaho. While records are spotty, by 1926, the two had produced more than 25,000 tons of silver, lead, zinc, and copper with a gross value of $825,000. (Well over $11 million today.)
A Minnesota syndicate led by Nathaniel Moore bought the mines in 1894 and built a concentrator and mill at a site between New Denver and Three Forks called New Duluth, after the city from whence he came.
The name first appeared in the Ledge of January 31, 1895: “Sixty tons of ore from the Idaho are being hauled daily, and the bins are almost full. New Duluth is the name given to the mill site.” The Ledge of November 7 of that year added: “New Duluth is one mile from Three Forks, and is commonly called the Concentrator.” New Duluth was never an official name of any sort — it showed up in newspapers but wasn’t the name of the Nakusp and Slocan Railway siding.
According to historian Innes Cooper, "I cannot find any information as to what they called this siding ... The name New Duluth, while having limited use, was not used on government documents or maps and the only name in general use was 'the concentrator,' up until the name Alamo was adopted ... My judgment would be that it was likely named New Duluth by Mr. Moore but the name was not generally accepted by the public of the day."
It’s not clear when the place became known as Alamo, although it was between September 29, 1898, when New Duluth was last mentioned in The Ledge, and April 1, 1899 when the Alamo post office opened. Later it was known as Alamo Siding, as in this example from The Ledge of June 20, 1912: "There is a 200-ton mill, complete and in good repair at Alamo siding."
The post office closed on September 30, 1904, re-opened on August 1, 1919 and closed again on August 4, 1939.
As for how the mine got its name, who knows. Alamo is Spanish for poplar tree. In the BC Archives place names file, D.B. Lawrence of the University of Minnesota suggested it was "Possibly named by some loyal Texas gold miner in honor of the historic Alamo battle at San Antonio, Texas."
Collection of the Penticton Art Gallery purchased using monies from the McCallum Fund. 1966.01.02
In 1964 Irvine's agent in London, James Bourlet and Sons Ltd, advised Irvine that "Winter Shore Line" had been accepted by the Pastel Society Exhibition, Royal Institute Galleries in London, England for exhibition (hanging fee two pounds, five shillings) and at the 1964 Paris Salon, which was the sixth time he had been accepted for this exhibition. In 1966 Irvine was listed in "Who's Who in American Art." Also in 1966 the Penticton Art Club purchased "Winter Shoreline" for its permanent collection.
Irvine was invited by well-known Kelowna artist R Dow Reid to take part in "Okanagan Image" in 1976. This was a valley-wide arts celebration sponsored by the Okanagan Mainline Regional Arts Council. R Dow Reid organized the artwork portion of the festival and the works travelled around the Valley to various communities. Irvine submitted a winter scene, "The Barges are Gone." It reflected the changing landscape, the disappearance of the barges which shipped carloads of fruit north up Okanagan Lake. As change comes along many of the old ways are set aside, occurrences not lost on the sensitive artist. In 1995 the piece was donated to the Penticton Art Gallery along with other works from South Okanagan artists by the Okanagan Mainline Regional Arts Council (OMRAC).
There is a notation on the back of the "Okanagan History" pastel: "Where the Sicamous, the Okanagan and the Aberdeen once tied up."
Irvine was there in the early years when the great sternwheelers that plied Okanagan Lake stopped at the Summerland wharf on their regular routes. He witnessed and recorded the changes over the years, capturing them with his pastels.
An article in the Arts Letter from the Art Gallery of the South Okanagan (the Penticton Art Gallery) in 1999 stated: "The juxtaposition of [the works] 'Okanagan History' and 'The Barges are Gone' draws attention to Adams' underlying concern; the passing of time...We get a sense of the history contained in these human constructions which have endured for nearly a century."
"The Broken Drift Fence," a winter scene of the rangeland between Princeton and Merritt in British Columbia, was exhibited at the Pastel Society Exhibition in London and at the Paris Salon in 1960.
In September of that year Irvine received notification from the Medici Society Ltd of London, England that the "The Broken Drift Fence" was chosen to appear in their private greeting card album for 1960 and in their general Christmas card series in 1961.
"Irvine was now considered one of Canada's two outstanding pastel painters and was called the second Andrew Wyeth, America's first proponent of 'Magic Realism.' The work possesses all the perfection of technique... and because of this, the serenity and spiritual composure of the work shines through in its simplicity and its serenity. Through Mr. Adams' work we are taken to these landscapes; we are never left wondering on the outside."
Three of Irvine's pastels were purchased by the Glenbow Foundation of Alberta in 1965-1966.