André Lapine (Andrejs Christian Gottfried Lapine)
BORN: Skujene, province of Latgale, Latvia October 15, 1866
DIED: February 26, 1952, Minden, Ontario
André Lapine began his art training at the age of 17 in Riga, Latvia at the Katrina’s School, under the tutelage of Stanslavs Roze (of the Imperial Acadamie of Petrograd Russia) (1823-1897). Roze noted Lapine’s exceptional talent and invited him to tour Europe, visiting the foremost galleries to further his art studies, in 1882.
After six months, Lapine separated from his instructor and took up a studio with Josef Weiss. The two were desperately poor, trying to raise money by selling copies from studying work in the major galleries. Weiss finally gave up art altogether and headed for
America. Lapine then left Paris but continued with painting. On his travels he painted more than fifty portraits. He went from Verdun to Alsace Lorraine then to Belgium and finally Holland. In Holland he entered a night school for the arts, studying under Professor Alebe. He became a member of the St Lucas Art Society.
During this time, Lapine met Collumbiena Geertrudia Britt whom he marries at the age of 31 in 1897. In 1905 they emigrated from Holland to Canada, taking land in Manitoba.
Shortly thereafter Lapine was drawn to the art community in Toronto. He finds a job with Frederick Brigden at Brigden Ltd. as an illustrator.
Here Lapine rapidly becoming one of Canada’s recognized artist. In 1909 he was accepted to the Ontario Society of Artists. 1919 he became a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. He was also a member of the Graphic Arts Club, as well as the Toronto’s Arts and Letter Club, and a founding member of the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour. He was awarded the Jesse Dowe Award twice.
Lapine’s illustrations were frequently seen on the Toronto Star Weekly covers and in colour sections within. His work was purchased by the National Gallery of Canada as well as the Art Gallery of Ontario. His work was included in many of Canada’s international exhibitions as well as those in provincial galleries. Lapine was the love of Toronto society, written about in the social columns and gained the title ‘Gentle Cavalier’ by writer Pearl McCarthy. He was most known for his paintings of horses. Perhaps the true evidence of his success was his ability to build a home on Old Mill Road and operate a studio in downtown Toronto in the 1920s.
In 1923 the Lapines returned to Holland and Latvia for a family visit.
Tragedy happened in 1927 when markets crashed. The Lapines were financially ruined and had to sell their home. Then in 1934 Lapine was struck by a car on Bloor street. His injuries were severe and it was reported he may not recover. He was taken to St Joseph’s hospital where he was under the constant care of the intern doctor Agnes Jamieson.
The Toronto Society pulled together an impressive art auction – a majority of pieces donated from the Group of Seven – to help pay for the many medical bills Lapine had. Miraculously Lapine fully recovered and began painting again to the point where he managed a major exhibition at the Malloney Gallery in Toronto at the age of eighty-four.
It is unclear as to how the Lapines came to know Minden. Many artists from Toronto area where traveling north to sketch and paint, Haliburton County was often their destination. Or the connection may have been Dr. Jamieson...
Geertrudia’s health was failing. André brought her to Minden where she stayed at Billy and Jessie Hamilton’s farm on South Lake until her death. Lapine continued with his art at his Toronto studio, traveling back and forth by train or by hitching a ride. He traveled and painted most of Ontario and parts of Quebec, capturing the landscape.
He was often seen walking the country roads around Minden with his easel and paint box, being dropped off by Dr. Jamieson on her rounds and then picked up later in the day. He befriended Frank Welch, then Minden’s Reeve and owner of the funeral home. Lapine lived with Welch for the last few years of his life, giving Welch paintings as payment for room and board.
Fortunately, Welch understood the significance of André Lapine to Canadian art. In total Welch accumulated 45 of Lapine’s paintings which he bequeathed to the Minden.
It was Dr. Jamieson who then went to work and ensured a gallery was established to preserve his work forever. Presently the Agnes Jamieson Gallery, in Minden Ontario, has over 150 works by André Lapine.
The Agnes Jamieson Gallery has published a small biography with more detail on Lapine. Go to www.mindenculturalcentre.com