Swaffield painting donor says work ‘belongs in Prince Albert’

A painting of a familiar Prince Albert landmark by a long-time fixture of the Prince Albert arts scene is back home.

Myrtle Swaffield’s oil on canvas board painting of the Prince Albert Railway Bridge heading over the North Saskatchewan River is on display at the Mann Art Gallery after being donated by former Prince Albert resident Lorna Elder.

Elder, who now lives in Victoria, B.C., said she discussed the donation with another good friend who also had Prince Albert connections, Dorrell Taylor. They both agreed the painting belong back in Prince Albert where it could be fully appreciated.

“I’m very pleased that the picture went back to Prince Albert,” Elder said during a phone interview. “That’s where it belongs.”

Elder and her husband, Dr. Donald J. Elder, fell in love with Swaffield’s work during an art showing in Victoria, but her connection with the Prince Albert painter goes beyond that. Elder’s sister, Heather Telfer, attended art classes Swaffield taught at the Prince Albert Collegiate Institute in 1947.

Swaffield and her husband retired to Victoria in the early 70s. Upon learning Elder was from Prince Albert, she invited the Elders into her home to view more of her paintings. The Elders eventually purchased the railroad bridge painting and two larger works featuring Emma Lake.

Elder not only loved Swaffield’s work, she also loved the old train bridge, which provided many fond memories in her youth.

“There was a lot of feelings towards that bridge and the Pop Inn,” Elder remembered. “We used to drop in for a coke and then ride across the bridge.

“We went swimming, and we went across on our bikes and just to the right there, down to the river, almost below the bridge. That’s where there was a sort of swimming hole.”

Mann Art Gallery curator Marcus Miller said they’re excited to add another Swaffield painting to their collection. The painting’s arrival means the gallery now has six of her pieces.

“It’s just mana from heaven,” Miller said. “We’re very, very happy to add this collection to our other Myrtle Swaffield paintings. She was quite influential in the arts scene.

The painting will be on display at the Mann Art Gallery for the rest of the year. All public health orders are in effect.

“It has much more value here in Prince Albert than it does anywhere else,” Miller said. “it shows an icon of the City in the old train bridge, so of course it belongs here.”

Originally born in North Dakota, Myrtle Swaffield became a well known artist who lived in Prince Albert from 1941 to 1952. According to the Mann Art Gallery, Swaffield was among the first artists to offer lessons in Prince Albert.

She was well known for her landscape and nature paintings, which are held in collections throughout Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia.

In 1980, the City of Prince Albert honoured her with a certificate expressing appreciation for her contributions to the City’s cultural standing. She eventually moved to Victoria with her husband, and continued to paint until her death in 1997.

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