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Page last updated February 15, 2017

© Michael Kluckner

Written/painted in 2003: Gitsegukla is a Gitxsan village at the confluence of the Kitseguecla and Skeena rivers west of Hazelton, with a set of tall, slender totem poles that are distinctive to the place. It also has an interesting old United Church, originally Methodist, with sheet-metal spires, the main one of which has a real "candle-flame" top. The setting is superb, with Mount Roche de Boule in the distance and a variety of village houses along the street. Perhaps only Hagwilget Village near Hazelton, with its Catholic church, St. Mary Magdalen, on the high ground, gives an equivalent evocation of the missionaries and their once-dominant role in the villages along the Skeena. By comparison, the totem poles at Gitanyow and Kispiox dominate their villages. Hagwilget, its church built by Father Morice in 1908, was the "outpost of Catholicism" in the Babine district; the villages to the west along the Skeena were divided between the Anglicans (such as Kitwanga with St. Paul's) and the Methodists (such as Kispiox and Kitsegukla), while some Kispiox villagers who had become members of the Salvation Army founding the community of Glen Vowell in 1898 (Glen Vowell is a very tidy, orderly village, with a large church near the Kispiox River and a very interesting, Victoria- style band administration office, built by local carpenters in the 1970s).

From the United Church of Canada British Columbia Conference Archives: "Presbyterian work in Hazelton began around 1911 and was confined to that town until the following year when New Hazelton came into being as a railway construction center. During the year 1912 the Mission consisted of two towns, New Hazelton and Old Hazelton with headquarters at Old Hazelton. In October of 1912 headquarters of the Mission was moved to New Hazelton where a hall was built in the early summer of 1913. Later on in 1913, owing to many families changing their place of residence from Old Hazelton to other parts of the district it became necessary to close down the mission in Old Hazelton. In 1925 the New Hazelton Presbyterian Church voted against Church Union but it could not get supply. An arrangement was made whereby the United Church took over the work in that community. At that point it was recognized as a United Church. The first Methodist religious services in Hazelton were held in a room over a drug store in 1912. The congregation quickly grew so large that they had to rent the St. Andrew's Hall. Around 1920 St. Andrew's Hall was destroyed by fire. In 1922 Hazelton Methodist Church was built in Hazelton. According to the United Church yearbooks, Hazelton Pastoral Charge has had many different preaching points over the years. Various congregations have moved in and out of the pastoral charge. Today Hazelton Pastoral charge includes Gitsegukla and Hazelton, but for several years in its past history it has included Kispiox, Skeena River, Cedarvale, and Miller Memorial United Church (at Wrinch Memorial Hospital) as well as small preaching points in the area."

The place is also known as Skeena Crossing, due to the GTPR's crossing of the river nearby.

Note on the Gitxsan from the Chief's Page: There are approximately 10,000 members of the Gitxsan nation worldwide, with about 70% living on the traditional territories. The population is young compared to provincial and Canadian statistics with over 70% under the age of 30. Most live in five Gitxsan villages (Gitwangak, Gitsegukla, Gitanmaax, Glen Vowell, Kispiox) and two provincial municipalities (Hazelton, New Hazelton). The Gitxsan people make up about 80% of the total population living on the territories. The remaining population is mostly of European descent. Settlement of the area by non-Gitxsan began around the turn of the century. Gitxsan people have lived on the territory since creation. Western archaeological evidence has so far supported more than 10,000 years of occupation by the Gitxsan. The English translation of the Gitxsan is "People of the River of Mist".


[the long thread below is answered at the bottom, in 2017]

From Sennan Vandenberg, 2015: I came across an article from your web site [below] regarding the excerpt by Jim Finlay on the A. Y. Jackson. This is more about sharing another early serigraph from Sampson Matthews and Nu-Tec. I'm curious if the stamp on the back of the Jackson is the same as mine? Any chance do you recognize the location of mine? I've been collecting early Canadian Serigraphs and John's is the first I've come across with the possible same early stamp by Sampson Matthews and Nu-Tec.

[My – Michael Kluckner's – guess is that this is Mount Cheam at the eastern end of the Fraser Valley]

From John Burger, 2015: I am researching a Sampson Matthews silkscreen that had a notation on the back saying “Design by A. Y. Jackson.”  It belongs to a friend of mine, purchased some thirty years ago at a yard sale.

So far, I have been able to definitively establish that the piece was modeled from a sketch by A.Y. done in 1926.  He visited the Skeena region in 1924.  It is about 18-20 inches square. I have also been able to establish that it is not part of the well documented and researched series of silkscreens produced by Sampson Matthews from 1942 – 1963 or so. Ian Sigvaldason is just releasing a book on the War series. I have been advised that this piece is probably pre war. I have also learned that other copies of this silkscreen probably exist but I have not been able to find an image of one yet.
The main reason that I would like to see another copy is that the one belonging to my friend is apparently extremely faded, probably from being hung in a sunny location at some point in its history. I have been told by an authority in these types of things that when originally produced, the colors would have been much more spectacular. For example, I was told that the pink you see in the river would originally have been a vibrant blue that faded. Titanium Oxide was mentioned. I am not well versed in art appreciation/techniques in any way. I am just very curious to see if I can suss out as much history of this piece as possible. I came across your painting of the church in Gitsegukla on line and believe the peak you have in the background is the same as the one in my friend’s piece.
So my reason for contacting you is to see if you might recognize this piece and know where I might be able to view a copy that is more true to the original colours. Of course, the Holy Grail would be to be able to discover that A. Y. Jackson actually did an oil to serve as the model for this piece. It does not seem likely at this point.  I suspect that this piece would have been created sometime in the mid to late thirties. A.J. Casson was at Sampson Matthews at the time and Jackson was also associated with them. 

[at this point Jason Vanderhill, a Vancouver historian with a special interest in period commercial art, got involved in the conversation and autocoloured the print … ]

Thanks for this Jason. The autocolour sure makes things more vibrant. To explain a bit more about the piece. It is heavily textured. If you look at the clouds on the top right you will see a dark outline on the left side of one of the clouds. The photo of the piece was lit by the sun from the left and those dark lines are actually shadow. So each layer of colour that went on was quite thick. Early Sampson Matthews work used, I am told, a thicker type of paint in applying the layers. A real expert in art has not looked at the piece in detail so my descriptions are from a truly amateur perspective. My comment about the titanium, was based on a conversation with someone who was surmising things from the photo and I may not even have heard them right. It’s interesting that in the auto coloured version the same pink is also evident up in the clouds. I just won’t know how it looked originally unless I can locate another to compare.
With regard to your link to the Jim Finlay article. He mentions that he found the sketch for Jackson’s Smart River in Naomi Jackson Groves’ book A.Y.’s Canada. I was able to look that up right away as I have this book right now from the library. It focuses exclusively on his pencil drawings. I had got the book hoping  to find something that referred to my friend’s piece but there was nothing. I also have Jackson’s 1958 autobiography. In it he speaks at length about the war series of serigraphs but doesn’t refer to his earlier Sampson Matthews dealings other than talking of his very good friend Casson being there. Though not a starving artist, I can imagine Jackson working with Sampson Matthews during the Depression to bring in income.
I have included a link so that you can see the sketch I am referring to. As I look at it I see that I had dated its creation incorrectly. It was done in 1928, not 1926.

[And then, a week or so later …]

Hello Jason: It was a link that you provided that led me to the successful end of my quest. You had copied a link to a story by Jim Finlay. 
I contacted Mr. Finlay and he quickly put together a package of info on my friend’s image including the book it was first published in. It cost me a few bucks but what he provided was quite detailed and cheap for what he provided.
“The screen print is based on a 1928  gouache over graphite on board painting by A. Y. Jackson entitled Skeena River (The Native Town of Gitsegyukla). The painting is in the permanent collection of the Robert McLaughlin Gallery and was a gifted to the gallery by Isabel McLaughlin in 1989.”  I can’t get a proper link to embed here but if one goes to The Robert McLaughlin Gallery site the original can be found under Accession #1989JA162.
“The painting is reproduced and titled THE NATIVE TOWN OF GIT-SEGYUKLA On the Upper Skeena on an un-paginated page between pages 54 and 55 in The Downfall of Temlaham by Marius Barbeau. The MacMillan Co. of Canada 1928.”
“It is also reproduced and titled Skeena River (The Native Town of Gitsegyukla) on page 94 of The Group of Seven in Western Canada. Ed. Catharine Mastin. Key Porter Books. 2008.”
“The painting is also visited by Leslie Dawn on page 132 of his book National Visions, National Blindness Canadian Art and Identities in the 1920s. UBC Press 2006. Dawn discusses Jackson’s trip to the Skeena Valley extensively in chapter 8 entitled. Representing and Repossessing the Picturesque Skeena Valley, pgs 209 -237. It is interesting to note that Dawn suggests that the sketch in the collection of The National Gallery of Canada, to which you refer, was considered for a poster for the Canadian National Railway and that the resultant painting was a minor work by Jackson.” It would appear that the poster never went ahead.
“In my opinion, without having seen the screenprint, it appears to be unfinished and perhaps in its first ‘state’. As I mentioned in my earlier e-mail ‘state’ refers to a particular point in the screenprint production process, in this case a first state, where the first two or three colours have been laid down. There may have been other detail and colour to be added at a later stage in the production process, to give  a closer appearance to the painting. As you can see the screenprint lacks colour and detail appearing in the painting. Also the screenprint appears not to contain Jackson’s signature, this would also suggest that the print was unfinished and had not completed the print production process.”

From John Burgs, 2015: At the time, I had overestimated the size of the piece. I took proper measurements the next time I saw it. It is 12 1/4" by 12 3/4."

Soon after our last contact I was able to locate a 1928 sketch in the National Gallery collection that is literally the exact!! match to my friend's piece and was obviously the model for the print. Here is the link. On the sketch, the color scheme is written on the right to guide whoever would be creating the screen print.

CN never did use it. Jim Finlay was also intrigued with seeing the sketch and has done a piece for Preview:The Gallery Guide that will appear in the June-August issue. It gives his take on the piece. For some reason the issue is not on line yet. I have attached the version he sent to me. He feels that the piece was probably done in 1928. I am looking for more definitive info on the date. I do know from research that it had to have been done between 1928 and October of 1931 when Sampson Matthews would no longer need to list the patent. I plan on reviewing the correspondence between Jackson and C.A.G. Matthews and A.J. Casson (Who was a director of the company)as well as Marius Barbeau on the slim chance that there is mention of the piece.

I had suspected that it was possible that it was Jackson's writing on the back of the piece in comparing the writing on various sketches. More authorities than Jim Finlay had told me (without me mentioning my thoughts) that the script was typical of Jackson's.

From Sennan Vandenberg, 2017: Just found the location of my silkscreen it's Mt. Edith Cavell the original was painted by Lawren Harris.
I found the original with the sketch in a 2002 catalog from Joyner/Waddington's Canadian Art, picture attached.

See: paintings of Kitsegyukla by Emily Carr

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Artwork and text ©Michael Kluckner, 2001, 2002, 2003