A painter and commercial artist, William John Bertram Newcombe was born in Victoria, British Columbia and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia. He lived in Toronto, Ontario (1936 – 1955) and London, England (1955 – 1969), where he died. (1)
His mediums included oil, watercolor, gouache*, pen & ink, collage* and mixed mediums. His subjects included, faces, figures, landscapes, street scenes, country roads, coastal views, and as an abstractionist – shape, color and texture. His styles included Abstract Expressionism*, Color Field Painting*, Constructivism*, Fauvism* and Cubism*; AskART has some good illustrations of his work.
He’s considered self taught, however most sources note that he did take some private lessons in Vancouver with Group of Seven* icon Frederick Varley.
Newcombe was a member of the Canadian Society of Graphic Art* (c. 1950) and its president and a member of the California Water Color Society* (1947). (2)
In addition to the above organizations, he exhibited with the Art Association of Montreal [now Montreal Museum of Fine Arts] (1933), the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts* (1938, 1947 and 1953), the Ontario Society of Artists* (1941), and the American Water Color Society* (1947 and 1948).
His works were also included in a Canadian Women’s Art Association exhibition, Vancouver Art Gallery (1946); “Canadians Abroad”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1958); “Irish Exhibition of Living Art”, Brown Thomas Gallery, Dublin (1958); “Canadian Abstract Art: A Centennial Exhibition”, Commonwealth Institute Art Gallery, London, England (1967); and “The 1950s”, Laurentian University Museum and Arts Centre, Sudbury, Ontario and touring (1988).
He’s had solo exhibitions at Stadtisches Museum Wuppertal, Germany (1957); Manchester City Art Gallery, England (1961); Manor House Museum, Ilkley, England (1962); the Arts Council, Karachi, Pakistan (1964); and the County Town Gallery, Lewes, England (1964).
Newcombe has also been the subject of one man shows at numerous prominent commercial galleries such as Ferargil Galleries, New York City (1946); Obelisk Gallery, London (1956 and 1988); Galerie El Corsario, Ibiza, Spain (1956); Galerie Iris Clert, Paris (1957); New Vision Gallery, London (1958, 1959, 1962, 1964 and 1965); Portal Gallery, London (1961); Grosvenor Gallery, London (1961); Jerrold Morris Art Gallery, Toronto, Ontario (1962); Reid Gallery, London (1962); Stone Gallery, Newcastle-on-Tyne, England (1962); Heal’s Art Gallery, London (1964); and Nicholas Treadwell Gallery, London (1965).
According to the Canadian Heritage Information Network* and individual museum websites, Newcombe’s works are in the permanent collections of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (B.C.), the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, Massachusetts), Whitworth Art Gallery (Manchester, England), and the Government Art Collection (Great Britain). (3)
1.1 He worked as a newspaper staff artist and commercial artist in Vancouver. Source: The Collector’s Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction and A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (see AskART book references).
1.2 Newcombe took an extended visit to Mexico in 1946 and 1947. Source: Ibid.
2. Newcombe was also a flying officer with the Royal Canadian Air Force (1941 – 1945) and a combat veteran of World War II. He completed 16 missions over Europe before being shot down and injured in the resulting parachute jump. Source: A Dictionary of Canadian Artists (see AskART book references).
3.1 A Dictionary of Canadian Artists notes that his works are also in the permanent collections of the Philbrook Art Centre (Tulsa), Joslyn Memorial Art Museum (Omaha, Nebraska), William Rockhill Nelson Gallery [now Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art](Kansas City, Missouri), Wadsworth Atheneum, (Hartford, Connecticut), Odessa Art Museum (Odessa, U.S.S.R.[now Ukraine]), National Gallery Of Israel (Tel Aviv), The Isaac Delgado Museum and Art Gallery (New Orleans, Louisiana), and the National Gallery of New South Wales (Sydney, Australia), however we were unable to confirm this information on the museums’ websites. – MDS
3.2 The work in the Government Art Collection is a 17” X 27” watercolor on paper titled Light and Form, it’s located in the offices of the British High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand. Source: Government Art Collection.
Biographical Index of Artists in Canada (2003), by Evelyn de Rostaing McMann (see AskART book references)
The Collector’s Dictionary of Canadian Artists at Auction (2001), by Anthony R. Westbridge and Diana L. Bodnar (see AskART book references)
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts: Spring Exhibitions 1880 – 1970 (1988), by Evelyn de R. McMann (see AskART book references)
Royal Canadian Academy of Arts: Exhibitions and Members, 1880 – 1979 (1981), by Evelyn de R. McMann (see AskART book references)
A Dictionary of Canadian Artists: Volume 5, Nadeau – Perrigard (1977), by Colin S. MacDonald (see AskART book references)
The History of Painting in Canada – Toward a Peoples Art (1974), by Barry Lord (see AskART book references)
Canadian Heritage Information Network*
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, England
Government Art Collection, Great Britain
Art Gallery of Ontario (catalogue summaries online)
James Adam & Sons Ltd. (Fine Art Auctioneers) Dublin, Ireland
Ottawa Citizen April 1, 1953, page 3 “Kites, Doves…”