A very special painting (I)


This past Saturday Raymond and I went to an auction sale at the former home of some old friends of my family, the Melbournes. John and Evelyn Melbourne were quite an elegant couple who had moved to a very nice Victorian home on Hart’s Road (between Madoc and Queensborough, and not far from Hazzards Corners). At the time (I was quite young, remember) I didn’t know – or didn’t pay attention to – who they were and where they had come from, but thanks to the things that were up for sale at the auction I learned (and in some cases remembered) some things about that remarkable couple. More on that, and the auction, and the kinship between my dad and Mr. Melbourne (they were both interested in all manner of things, including machinery) anon; this post is about a very special thing that I was lucky enough to be able to buy at the auction.

It is a painting of a section of the Melbournes’ property by someone I knew and loved: Vera Burnside. Vera was a teacher at Madoc Township Public School, a Sunday School teacher at St. Andrew’s United Church in Queensborough – and I think that if you looked up the phrase “salt of the earth” in the dictionary, Vera’s picture would be there. She was smart, kind, gentle and lovely. And talented at many things, including painting.

On the back of the painting that I bought at the Melbourne auction is written, in Vera’s hand, “View of Melbourne’s Hill from Hazzard’s Road … Vera Burnside, Spring/79.” I think Mr. Melbourne had died by 1979, but perhaps Mrs. Melbourne or their son, who took over as the property’s owner, commissioned it from her – or perhaps she just painted it for fun (the view would be more or less from the back of the home of Vera and her husband, Max) and the Melbournes subsequently acquired it.

Anyway, on Saturday evening after the auction, when Raymond had hung it in the dining room of the Manse, I couldn’t stop looking at it. The shadows on the snow, and the light in general, are beautiful. And it is a place that we know, painted by a person I knew and respected more than anything. It is lovely to have.

And I like to think that Vera Burnside would be happy to know that her painting has found a new home at the Manse. And that her old Sunday School student is thinking of her every time she sees it.

6 thoughts on “A very special painting (I)

  1. that’s one of the joys of attending small local auctions – continue to give life and get enjoyment from things that were loved and cared for for generations. I never tire of it myself! I’m sure you’ll enjoy it for a long time. I remember once, in the early 80s finding a beautiful small and very dirty painting of a house with trees in front of it in a small Maine town near Bath. The frame was superb and after I had it cleaned, we discovered apple trees in bloom and three cows meandering down a country path. It was dated 1863 and had an undecypherable signature. I kept it for many years before selling to someone who’d fallen in love with it. Then, 3 or 4 years later, found another rendition of the exact same painting about 20 miles from where I’d found the first one – I imagine one (the first one) was probably made by a teacher and the other one (much less expertly done) by one of his or her students. That’s one of the joys of those country auctions, you never know what you’ll find! Enjoy your painting and keep writing – I try to never miss any of your blogs ;o)). Johanne

    • What a great story, Johanne! To think that you found both the teacher’s and the student’s paintings – what are the chances? But as you say, those are the kinds of treasures that one can find at a local auction. I’m so glad you enjoy the blog, and I appreciate your reading and commenting on it!

  2. Very lovely, peaceful scene and you were so fortunate to have found the local painting by someone you admired so very much!

    • We were indeed, Eloise! You’re right – it really is a peaceful scene, isn’t it? The long shadows on the snow just make you feel tranquil, somehow. And perhaps cozy at being indoors where it’s warm as you look out on a snowy scene.

  3. Just did a google search on a relative’s name and look what came up! One of my grandmother’s paintings that I’d never seen! Painting was a huge joy for her. We recently unearthed her enormous collection of slides, most of which are landscape photos of the Queensborough/Hazzard’s area. I rather doubt this was a commission. Most of her work came solely from inspiration.

    • I’m so glad you found the post, Blayne, and that it gave you a chance to see a painting by Vera that was a new one for you. She was a person of so many interests and talents, which meant she must have had a very busy life. I can well imagine that she found expressing her creativity through painting a very invigorating and refreshing thing – and because it is a quiet and solitary pursuit, a restful one as well.

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