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The Humbercrest Connection

A good way to get pertinent information is to go to the “source” and explain what it is you’re looking for and why. Sometimes it’s a “long shot” but sometimes it pays off BIG. And that’s what occurred when letters were sent to residents on Valleyview Gardens, the street where Clara lived and Raymond Ave., where Clara painted Houses in Snow, Raymond Ave. In both cases recipients responded with facts, photos, memories, ideas and offers to help…..

In January of 2015 I received an email from a resident with an interest in local history, Clare:

“Hello Verna, I am responding to your letter as I have an interest in local history. I moved to the area in 1999 and consequently do not remember Clara Isabella Harris". However, I am a member of Humbercrest United Church and it appears that there may be some of her paintings hanging in the church lounge on the second floor. "When I brought up the possibility that Clara may have belonged to the church some members acknowledged that it could be so because there had been a painting group at the church in the past”.

A couple of days later Clare sent me these photos and signatures: “I was at Humbercrest United Church today and there were 3 paintings with Clara's signature on them in the lounge. I have also taken a separate picture of Clara's signature on each painting, so that you can read them clearly. They are framed in a basic way with just nails keeping them propped in the frame. The frames are attractive though”.

Clare has contributed some excellent information. The photos of Clara’s signature identify her work and act as her trademark. Clare’s description of the backs of the paintings and how they’re secured is typical. If you’re careful paintings can be switched easily without damaging the work. However if the nails are too loose the painting can develop warps or fall out of the frame.

Pink and White Flowers in Green Vase

Spring by the River

Winter on the River

The dimensions 24 x 30” are recorded on the back.

“This is the painting with the writing on back. It has a slight ripple in it, possibly an effect of moisture in the air.”

Clare’s right about the ripples. These can be the result of exposure to variances in temperature, humidity and light. These cause the canvas to lose shape. The canvas may need to be restretched.

“In the interest of your research it may be useful to contact the church and have them put a notice in their weekly bulletin looking for information on Ms. Harris.“

I acted on Clare’s suggestion and contacted Reverend Jessica McCrae who gave the “go-ahead” and added a notice to the church bulletin. To date there have been four more responses and the possibility of receiving the photos of at least six paintings of landscapes, a portrait and a still life. Some interesting anecdotal information about Clara is also surfacing.

Here’s one of those responses from Jean K:

“My parents and I lived at 29 Valleyview Gardens from 1944 til the 1990’s and the painting was purchased in 1964 from Clara as a wedding gift for me. The painting is fairly large.

"I do not have many memories of Clara except it was the biggest house on the street, had no children that I knew of and was not especially visible on the street to kids.”

Jean is correct about 23 Valleyview Gardens. To accommodate Fred and Clara’s tall frames the house was built with ten foot ceilings. And the Harrises had no children.

As more information is acquired it will be added to the The Humbercrest Connection thanks to the suggestion of Clare P. and the help of Reverend Jessica McCrae and her congregation. Stay tuned.

Trees Ablaze By River Oil on board 22 x 30” Original frame, Signed


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