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John Snow

by Christine L Hayes

John Snow House

John Snow was a man of many accomplishments. He was born in Vancouver in 1911 but moved with his family to England where they rode out World War I. His family returned when he was eight and moved to Olds. At seventeen he joined the Royal Bank of Canada, where he would work until his retirement in 1971, with time taken out for service in the RCAF and RAF during World War II. These stints in the air force gave him the opportunity to see the world and its great museums. This would nourish and influence John’s artistic side and this is why we know John Snow.

In addition to his accomplishments as a banker and a soldier, he was a great artist. He had absorbed the European modernist approaches, and his desire to see art accessible to all people led him to printmaking. He was great friends with the architect Maxwell Bates, with whom he had studied life drawing after the war. They salvaged a couple of lithograph presses and began experimenting with printmaking. They essentially taught themselves an art form that was stagnant at best and breathed new life into the medium.

Snow’s work would apply his European influences to prairie subjects and express them in a new and contemporary way. The studio he established in his basement was, at one time, the only facility of its kind outside of educational institutions in Western Canada.

In addition to his own work, Snow printed images for other artists in including Bates and Illingworth Kerr. Due in no small part to John Snow, Alberta is regarded internationally as a centre of printmaking. In addition to his talents as a printmaker, John was an accomplished painter and sculptor. He also helped form the Calgary Film Society in the 1940s. John Snow was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence in 1996. He passed away in 2004.

His spirit, however, lives on. His house, which was built in 1912 and purchased by John in 1951, was purchased after his death by Jackie Flanagan, who used it to house artists of another medium, those involved in the Markin Flanagan Distinguished Writers Program. In 2008 the house was offered to The New Gallery. They successfully lobbied for zoning changes to allow them to house their Resource Centre, offices and a multi-use cultural space. The official opening of the John Snow House is this Friday at 7:00. Check out their Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=10805587592822)The house itself was named a Provincial Historic Resource in 2003. You can find out more about the building at Calgary Heritage Initiative (http://www.calgaryheritage.org/documents/JohnSnowHouse.pdf)