This is Melita Aitken

By Gwylym Owen

Melita Aitken
Full image (click)

Melita Aitken (March 31, 1866 – August 28, 1945) was a Canadian writer and artist.

She was born in Drumbo, Ontario and studied art taking into account Mary Dignam in Toronto and similar to John Vanderpoel at the Art Institute of Chicago. At first, Aitken painted portraits in oil but switched to painting flowers in watercolour after discovering lead in the oil paints was affecting her health.

As an aside note, many oil paints are not dangerous and these days there are alternatives to using the pigments with heavy metals such as Cadmiums, Cobalt blue and lead-whites. There is minimum danger using these pigments as long as you don’t ingest them, but people with a high sensitivity might like to look into using the safer alternatives. Painting in oil is a fantastic medium to explore and you shouldn’t let stories in popular media put you off.

Melita Aitken
Melita Aitken

She married Captain Robert James Aitken; the couple had three children. He was killed during World War I. After spending some period overseas, she returned to Sault Ste. Marie, later moving to Victoria and subsequently Vancouver.

Her achievement was included in exhibitions at the Royal Academy in London, Ontario, at the Royal Canadian Academy, at the Salon des artistes français in Paris, at spring shows of the Art Association of Montreal, at the Victoria Art Gallery and at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Education

  • Art Institute of Chicago (under Vanderpoel)
  • Private study (under Mary Ella Dignam)

Memberships

  • British Columbia Society of Artists, 1918-1930
  • Island Arts and Crafts Society
  • National Association of Women Artists
  • Women’s Art Club, Toronto

File & Archive locations

  • National Gallery of Canada, ON – Library and Archives
  • Canadian Women Artists History Initiative Documentation Centre, QC
  • British Columbia Archives

Around 1920, she published a addition of poems Maple Grove: And Other Poems.

the maple grove
the maple grove

Excerpt from The Maple Grove: And Other Poems

With her lakes and rivers, fruitful land to till, Boasting not of mountains, only wooded hill; Manly sports in winter, summer’s sunny skies, Seldom hear complaining, seldom many sighs.

Prosperous towns and cities, busy as a bee, Singing birds and flowers, pretty as you’ll see, Happy dads and mothers, boys and girls so free, Good, Old Ontario, is the place for me!

Aitken died in Vancouver at the age of 79 as an accomplished artist in her own right.

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