Hecla Island on Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba was once a thriving Icelandic fishing and farming community. The first Icelanders arrived in 1876 and, together with the other Icelandic communities settled at that time around Lake Winnipeg, became the largest population of Icelanders living outside of Iceland itself. Over the next century, though, fish populations began to decline. Hecla was more remote than the other mainland communities, and its occupants began to leave. By the end of the 1960s, few families remained. The Manitoba government decided to make the island and its neighbours into a park, and the remaining residents were evicted.
The story of Hecla Island has always touched me as my childhood best friend’s Afi (grandfather) was one of those who was forced to find a new home. He ended up living with her family in Keewatin. So, when I saw this painting by Victor Friesen (1911-1976), a prominent 20th century Manitoban watercolourist, I was attracted to it for more than just its artistic merit. But it was the clarity of his style that first drew me.
Friesen’s family emigrated from Lyesnoye, Ukraine to settle in Waterloo, Ontario in 1922. He moved to Winnipeg in 1926, where he took up painting. In 1933 he won his first exhibition prize for watercolour, and he was a member of the Manitoba Society of Artists by 1936. He went on to show with the Canadian Society of Artists in Watercolour at the National Exhibition in Toronto, and also with the Federation of Canadian Artists. Victor Friesen earned his living as a commercial artist, and was known for his beautiful calendars.
Deserted Barn, Hecla Island, watercolour by Victor Friesen. Approx 16×20 inches with acid-free double mat in original wood frame. SOLD!