Short-listed for the 2012 Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize
Mildred Valley Thornton (1890¬1967) (HON. CPA, FRSA) was born in Ontario. Portraits of the First Nations peoples of Western Canada became the genius loci of her oeuvre. During the Depression, her family moved to Vancouver. She became an advocate for First Nations peoples and made important historical contributions to British Columbian art and culture. Thornton was also a noted journalist, Vancouver Sun art critic(1944¬1959), book reviewer and published poet.
Before she died, Thornton unsuccessfully tried to interest Canadian institutions in purchasing her collection of approximately 300 portraits of First Nations peoples of Canada. Identified in her work are ancestors from twenty-four Western First Nations, including, Haida, Kwakwaka'wakw, Squamish, Stó:lo, on the plains these include the Cree, Kainai, Piikani, Saulteaux, Sitsika and Tsuu T'ina. When she realized no government agency or gallery was going to purchase her work, she was so anguished that she wrote a codicil to her will. The codicil was improperly witnessed; the work remained intact. Her work is in the Royal B.C. Museum and Archives, the Glenbow Museum, the Heiltsuk Nation, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, the National Gallery of Canada, the Simon Fraser University Gallery, the Squamish Nation and the Vancouver Art Gallery. Introduction by Sherrill Grace.