“Nature is so wonderful… I feel that when I’m doing my painting that it is a form of worship.”
E.J. Hughes’s paintings are best known for their strong and appealing images of the landscape and seascape of British Columbia. His distinctive style is marked by the use of flattened space, skewed perspective and simplified shapes. He is a regional painter, whose art relates directly to the unique and powerful geography of the Canadian west coast.
Hughes studied at the Vancouver School of Applied Art and Design from 1929 to 1935. His teachers included Frederick H. Varley and J.W.G. (Jock) MacDonald. He first worked as a commercial artist with dry-point and woodcuts and later collaborated on large-scale murals. In 1939, he enlisted as a gunner in the Royal Canadian Artillery and three years later became Official Army War Artist, working in Canada, Great Britain and the Aleutians (Alaska) (Relief Arriving at an Outpost on Kiska, 1946). He returned to Vancouver Island to live, first in Victoria, then at Shawnigan Lake, where he tried to earn a living as a full-time painter.
In 1947, Hughes was awarded an Emily Carr scholarship and one year later was elected member of the Canadian Group of Painters. His reputation grew in the 1950s, especially after being represented by Max Stern, owner of the Dominion Gallery in Montreal. He was commissioned by the Standard Oil Company to travel on a tanker to paint a series on the British Columbia coast. He also traveled and sketched on the coast and the interior of B.C. on Canada Council grants (Kaslo on Kootenay Lake, 1969). Hughes was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy in 1968 and received the Canada Council Award one year later. In 2001 he received the Order of Canada and was awarded the Order of British Columbia in 2005.