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Philip Henry Howard Surrey
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Painter, newspaper editor and educator Philip Henry Howard Surrey’s artistic achievements were aptly described in the citation accompanying his 1982 induction as a member of the Order of Canada, one of the highest Canadian civilian honors, which described him as “the leading exponent of urban landscape painting in Canada” whose works “constitute a unique contribution to Canadian art.” Born in Calgary in 1910 to the soldier and adventurer Harry Philip Surrey and Kate de Guerin, he and his parents led a peripatetic existence that took him to California, Europe, India, Java, Malaysia and Singapore over a decade until he enrolled in school in England in 1919. After learning that Harry sought divorce, Kate took Philip with her to Canada in 1921, first to Montreal and then to Manitoba. At age 16 he began an apprenticeship as a commercial artist with Brigdens Limited in Winnipeg and took evening classes at the Winnipeg School of art under Lionel Lemoine Fitzgerald (1890-1956) and George Overton (b. 1880) and sketched scenes of urban Winnipeg. In 1929 Surrey moved to Vancouver where he worked as a commercial artist for Cleland-Kent Engraving and took night classes at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts (now the Emily Carr University of Art and Design) with Frederick Horsman Varley (1881-1969) and James Williamson Galloway (“Jock”) MacDonald (1897-1960). Surrey exhibited works at the “All Canadian Shows” at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, in 1932 and 1933. He went to New York City in 1936 where he studied for three months under Frank Vincent DuMond (1865-1951) and Alexander Abels (b. 1897) at the Art Students League. Surrey moved to Montreal in 1937 where he worked as a photography and feature editor for publisher John Wilson McConnell (1877-1963) at the Standard Newspaper (later Weekend Magazine) until 1964 while painting nighttime streetscapes in the evenings and on weekends. He became an active member of the Montreal art scene and was a founding member of the Eastern Group of Painters in 1938, the Contemporary Arts Society in 1939 and the Montreal Men’s Press Club (now the Montreal Press Club) in 1948. During World War II Surrey stayed at the Standard, editing photographs of the war, rather than accepting a commission as a military artist. However, he did contribute designs for at least two posters to the Canadian war effort. He continued to exhibit his paintings, with a solo exhibitions at Montreal’s Galerie Antoine (1940), Ottawa’s Contempo Studios (1942) and Montreal’s Galerie l’Art Français (1945). His works were included in group shows at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, at the Art Gallery of Toronto also in 1939 and in exhibitions of Canadian art at the Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Mass. (1942) and the Yale University Art Gallery (1944). After the war he continued working at the Magazine, painting and exhibiting, with solo and two-person museum shows at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (1949, 1955 and 1961), the Quebec Museum of Fine Arts (1960 and 1966) and several galleries in Montreal and Toronto. In 1953 he won the first prize for painting at the Spring Show of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts and won second prize at the Winnipeg Art Gallery’s 1960 Show. In 1964 when he was 64 years old, publisher McConnell suggested to Surrey that he paint full-time while remaining employed by the (now) Weekend Magazine, an offer he accepted. He began teaching drawing at Montreal’s Concordia University in 1965, continuing to 1975. Surrey’s successful exhibitions at Montreal’s Galerie Martin in 1965 and 1967 both sold out. Surrey received Canada’s Centennial Medal in 1967. His solo exhibition “Philip Surrey: Painter in the City” at the Montreal Museum of Contemporary Art in 1971 traveled to the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris the following year. Surrey exhibited in a variety of group exhibitions during the 1970s and 1980s. A member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, he was also a member of the Federation of Canadian Artists and the Canadian Society of Graphic Art (now the Print and Drawing Council of Canada). He received an honorary doctorate from Concordia University in1981 and (as noted above) membership in the Order of Canada in 1982. Surrey died in Montreal in 1990. One source lists 208 works by him in Canadian museums. (TNB 20/2018) Selected bibliography: “Surrey, Philip Henry” in Library Reference Division, McPherson Library, University of Victoria. Creative Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Twentieth-century Creative and Performing Artists. 2 vols.; vol. 2, p. 262. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971, 1972. “Philip Surrey, C.M., LL.D., R.C.A – Canadian, 1910-1990,” Alan Klinkhoff Gallery. “Philip Henry Howard Surrey,”, “Philip Surrey,” National Gallery of Canada, “Philip Surrey,”