Goddard Gale, Art Teacher ’07-’32

(Written by his great-nephew, Felix Kuehn, Winnipeg, Canada)

In the spring of 1894, Western Canada’s first art school, the Winnipeg School of Art and Design, was opened in Main Street’s prestigious Ryan Block. In April, the Manitoba Free Press introduced the school’s director, Mr. Goddard F. Gale, to its readers by informing them that “under the guidance of the best living painters, his whole life has been spent in the studio.” The paper then went on to explain, “On both the maternal and paternal sides of the house he belongs to a race of artists. His grandfather, Joseph Severn, sketched the only portrait ever made of the poet Keats. …In fact the Gale family was so intimate with the famous art connoisseur and author, John Ruskin, that when Mr. Gale was a boy, his sketches were taken to Ruskin for criticism and correction.” Mr. Gale’s qualifications as an art teacher were further certified by the reporter who noted that Mr. Gale had studied “at the art schools on the continent under the inspirations of the grand old masters.”

Thirty years later, the popular California publication, Overland Monthly, carried a full-page article highlighting several aspects of the life and work of Mr. Gale. It concluded by stating, “Gale loves to share with his friends the interesting people he has known. He talks with Western directness in the diction of one trained from his childhood in the classics. In his sprightly anecdotes the Victorians of his boyhood live again.” Having noted, “Few Americans – Goddard Gale is a good American – have so close an acquaintance with the great men of the Victorian period in England,” it continued by explaining another connection between the renowned author of the Stones of Venice and Mr. Gale’s family:

The towering personality of Goddard Gale’s boyhood, the closest of the family friends, was John Ruskin. Gale’s uncle, Arthur Severn, married Ruskin’s adopted daughter and niece, and still lives at Brantwood, the old Ruskin home. Severn, now in advanced years, is known as one of the greatest watercolorist of England.

Speaking of Mr. Gale’s parental home, this article explained:

His father, Frederick Gale, a parliamentary barrister, was one of Gladstone’s legal advisers and carried out the plans for some of the greatest political campaigns, although curiously enough himself a staunch Conservative. Gale has many boyhood anecdotes of those campaigns and of those who fought in them.

Among the other Gale family friends were Alfred Lord Tennyson, Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland during much of Queen Victoria’s reign, (Godard Gale remembered him “as the handsomest man he ever saw) and Francis Trevelyan Buckland, an well-known surgeon, zoologist, popular author and natural historian. “The boy Gale loved to catch snakes for Buckland on vacation, and carried on his quests in the face of severe parental objections which included a search for concealed reptiles whenever the boy returned from a tramp.” Another family friend was Thomas Hughes, the author of Tom Brown’s School Days. Published in 1857, it remains the most widely read of the dozens of 19th century British school novels.

Although the 1894 article asserted that Mr. Gale “has been a prominent artist for years on the staff of the Graphic,” it did not specifically elaborate on his rather remarkable immediate antecedents, that of having been a southwestern Manitoba homesteader. It is the Overland Monthly which provides us with a fascinating insight into this aspect of Mr. Gale’s life. Having noted his boyhood hunting expeditions on behalf of Dr. Buckland, this article continued:

Perhaps the love of the out-of-doors then fostered led Goddard Gale early in life to Canada, where he lived for some years, making drawings for illustrated papers and seeing frontier life at its wildest. A fittingly romantic courtship and marriage have been followed by an ideally happy home life.

“Seeing frontier life at its wildest” included not only his years as a western Canadian pioneer, but also his career as a surveyor and civil engineer in the employment of the Canadian Pacific Railway then constructing the first transcontinental railroad across British North America. Principally involved in surveying as well as designing and building bridges in some of the most rugged terrain on the face of the earth, the Canadian Rockies, (To family members and others, he always maintained that he was the first white person to see Lake Louise, Canada’s most beautifully situated lake), these were months of hardship, privation and extreme danger. In the introduction to his two-volume study of this herculean undertaking, the Canadian author Pierre Burton echoes Mr. Gale’s recollections, “In winter, when the blizzard strikes and the heavens are blotted out, it can be a white hell; in the summer, by all accounts, it is an enchanted realm.” In later years, Mr. Gale revelled in sharing “tall tales” of his experiences in during these railroading months.

It was in the fall of 1884 that Mr. Gale determined to terminate his railroad career in order to establish a Manitoba home two hundred miles southwest of Winnipeg, the provincial capital. Here he selected a homestead on land where an ancient Indian and fur-trading trail forded South Antler Creek, a tributary of the Souris River. The southern edge of his homestead touched the Canada-US boundary and four miles to the west was eastern border of the vast North West Territories. Those who saw the endless expanses of virgin prairie all agreed that it was indeed an “enchanted realm,” an endless expanse of wild flowers; crocuses, violets, blue, white and yellow, buttercups, silverweed, daisy, fleabanes, hare bells, wild roses and sweet peas; blue Siberian peas, white anemones, beard tongue, three-flowered avons and wild prairie lilies. In fall, even the driest spots were brightened by the beautiful red flowers of the fall cactus, a plant about the size of a golf ball encased in a armour of needle-sharp spines.

Although at the time of Mr. Gale’s arrival in Township 1-29 (its legal description) there were only five other neighbours living on its 36 square miles, it soon became the focal point of a settlement of British settlers. Many of these were recent arrivals from England and for the most part ardent members of the Church of England – and enthusiastic cricketers. Being the son of one of Great Britain’s outstanding cricket authorities, it was natural that Uncle Goddard would have taken a leading role in the organization of a local cricket club. Municipal politics was another area of special interest so that Mr. Gale was elected as the local representative on the council of the original Municipality of Arthur, one which comprised the present municipalities of Arthur, Edward and Albert. In 1890 he was elected the municipality’s third reeve.

It was while a resident of this district, then known as Butterfield after the local post office, that Mr. Gale’s name is prominently associated with the building of the first church of any denomination west of the Souris River. Lacking the resources to construct a church worthy of the noble aspirations of their fledgling community, on behalf of their newly-organized parish, Mr. Gale communicated with friends in England and approached church societies and individuals to obtain the funds to provide the necessary building materials. They responded generous with sums ranging “from ten guineas to one shilling.” At Butterfield, where all of the actual construction work was done by volunteer labour in the astonishing short time of thirty-eight working days, the finished structure was comparable with many English village churches. In an October 1892 article written for publication in English papers, Mr. Gale’s father, on a visit from England to Manitoba, described St. George’s Church at Butterfield in these words:

The building, which is fifty-six feet long, twenty wide and twenty high, is built of stone quarried by the farmers last year and hauled to the site of the building. It consists almost entirely of grey and red granite and sandstone found in the sloughs – dried up watercourses – all over the prairie. The sidewalls are ten feet high and two feet thick and the east and west walls twenty feet in height. The church is pure Gothic, and the roof of wood, covered with shingles – wooden “slates,” which look much nicer than slate and are almost imperishable in this climate.

Its consecration by the Archbishop of Rupert’s Land, Robert Machray, assisted by Rev. Wood and Mercer on Sunday 4 September 1892 attracted a majority of the district settlers of every denomination. After the service, Mr. and Mrs. Gale entertained the officiating clergy at a noon dinner in their home.

Unfortunately, the high hopes of this “British Settlement” were soon crushed by a combination of factors. A general lack of practical farming experience (made particularly evident by its pioneers having chosen a semi-arid corner of Manitoba for their new homes …the beautiful little cactus plants should have been a warning), was soon exacerbated by drought and crop failures. By the turn of the century, many of St. George’s parishioners had come to the conclusion that their homesteads were more suitable for feeding buffalo than growing crops. The parish was mostly abandoned, some moving only a few miles to the northwest into the Lyleton community where the land was better, a few returned to England, others decided to again try homesteading further west, while others found new homes in other parts of Canada or the United States. Some are reported to even have moved to Australia. By 1903 St. George’s had almost no parishioners. Today, almost a century and a quarter later, the once magnificent English church graced with a delicate spire and “eleven Gothic arches” is a unique, picturesque prairie ruin.

Mr. Gale and his wife made their way to Winnipeg – briefly – where, as we have already noted, he established an art school. From western Canada’s “Chicago of the North” the Gale’s soon moved to California where Mr. Gale’s cousin, George Henry Goddard, a gold seeker of 1850, had become one of the state’s most prominent surveyors and cartographers. The Gale’s first home in Alameda County was the town of Livermore situated some forty miles east and slightly south of Oakland. Here Mr. Gale opened an art studio in which he offered art classes and taught drawing in the Livermore High School. This was also the birthplace of their daughter, Claudia Fitzroy Gale in September 1897 and their son, Frederick Francis Sadler Gale in March 1899. Soon after this the family moved to Oakland where Mr. Gale soon became prominent in the art community of that city. Here he was appointed head of the Art Department in Oakland’s best known school, now known as Oakland Technical High, then as the Oakland Manual Training and Commercial High School.

During the first week of January 1903, tragedy struck the young family when Mrs. Gale passed away two months short of having reached her thirty-fifth birthday. She left her husband a widower with two small children, Claudia almost five and a half and Frederick, not yet four. Mrs. Gale, the former Lillian Georgina Sadler, was the daughter of the prominent pioneer settler, Jesse Johnson Sadler, of the Winlaw district south of Gainsborough, Saskatchewan. Thus, when Mrs. Gale passed away, her husband brought her remains (together with the infant she had died bringing into the world) back to be buried in the family plot in the Winlaw cemetery.

The following year when he returned to visit her grave and his in-laws he extended his visit to the Pembina Crossing district south of Manitou to visit, in the words of the local paper, “his old friend, R.N. Lea.” This was a friendship which had extended back to the first days of Mr. Gale’s arrival in Manitoba. In the fall of 1880, at Emerson, “The Gateway City to the North West,” Mr. Gale had made the acquaintance of Mr. R.N. Lea, an artist by avocation, a prosperous Warwichshire tenant farmer by profession who had decided to enrich his life – and perhaps even his bank account – by pioneering in western Canada. The two quickly became fast friends, and Mr. Lea soon persuaded the young man, whose original intention had been to immediately secure a civil engineering job with the Canadian Pacific Railway, to instead accompany him to his new home in the Pembina River Valley, Fairbrook Farm. Here, Mr. Lea suggested, Mr. Gale could be the tutor to the older of his eight children during the coming winter months. Mr. Gale agreed. It was a quarter century later, in July 1904, that he returned to Fairbrook Farm. It was a happy reunion and in June of the following year Mr. Gale made yet another visit, this time to marry Mr. Lea’s eldest daughter, Ada Mary Lea. When she had been nine, she had been his favourite pupil. Now thirty-two, she and Mr. Gale were married in the old log church at Pembina Crossing. He was forty-six she was thirty-two.

Although Mr. Gale occasionally did works on religious and historical studies (in 1894 when the Manitoba Free Press reporter had visited him in his Main Street studio, Mr. Gale was completing an oil on the early Christian martyrs) his preferred subjects were found in nature. The 1894 Free Press noted that Mr. Gale had been busy on “Rocky Mountain scenery and Canadian landscapes for the Graphic.” As a young man, Mr. Gale had mastered floral painting and still life; later engineering studies in England had perfected his drafting and mechanical drawing skills and in California he became famous for his California landscapes and coastal scenes. San Francisco Bay and the Carmel Coast one hundred miles farther south were the most frequent inspiration for his works.

Mr. Gale was a contributor to many competitions on the Pacific coast. In September 1908, according to the Manitou Western Canadian, “Mr. G. Gale, son-in-law of Mr. R.N. Lea, was a successful competitor in the recent art exhibition held in Sacramento, California. Mr. Gale’s works in watercolours carried off two blue ribbons against the leading artists of the Pacific States.” Of course it was not just small-town Manitoba newspapers who acclaimed Mr. Gale’s artistic gifts. His name was particularly well known to readers of the San Francisco Call, particular to those who followed its art columns “In the World of Art” author by Lucy B. Jerome and Margaret Marshall Doyle. The December 1924 issue of Overland Monthly also includes an evaluation typical of his peers. It noted:

The work of a California artist attracts such attention in Europe that the editors of La Revue Moderne and La Revue du Bom et du Beau write for material for critical and biographical articles; when the art critic of the London Post commends the work as among the most striking at the autumn exhibit at Liverpool, Californians are interested but not surprised. Goddard Gale’s paintings have long been known to lovers of art. The painter has won medals at various exhibits, notably the Grande Prix at the Alaskan-Yukon Exhibition [1909, Seattle Washington]. His paintings of Carmel, Point Lobos, and the Sierras are in the permanent exhibit at the Oakland Auditorium and in other collections around the Bay.

From more than fifteen hundred pictures in the autumn exhibit at Liverpool, which is considered one of the most important in Europe, the judges selected thirty-four, including the paintings of Sargent, Sorolla-y-Bas-ticla, Pissarro, Aman-Jean, and Charles Sims, R.A. Among them was “On the Trail to Paradise” by Goddard Gale, a scene in the Kings River Country of the Sierras. The picture shows the late afternoon sunshine red on the snowy peaks in the distance and the blue and violet shadows on the canyon wall shaded with oaks and pines.

Goddard Gale is a versatile painter in watercolor and in oil; a conservative who has never forgotten his early training at South Kensington. He greatly admired the work of his friend, Sidney Yard, the California watercolorist, and the same poetic and romantic atmosphere pervades the pictures of both these artists. Of the Keith school, as was Yard, Gale also has the warmest admiration for the paintings of George Inness, and his oils show in the warmth of color and arrangement of masses the influence of the earlier painter.

In June 1930, Mr. and Mrs. Gale observed their silver wedding anniversary and two years later, at the age of seventy-three, Mr. Gale retired as head of the Art Department at the Oakland Technical High School. However, he continued to paint until days before his passing on the the morning of Friday, 12 August 1938, after a short illness in Oakland’s Peralta Hospital. He was seventy-nine years of age. His funeral service was held the following Monday from the Telegraph Avenue Chapel of the Grant D. Miller mortuaries in Oakland. He was survived by his widow, Mrs. Ada Gale of, as well as his son Frederick F. Gale, a prominent Oakland businessman, and his daughter Claudia F. Gale, a well-known teacher in the California public schools. He had been a member of the Bay Region Art Association and the Oakland Tent No. 94, Woodmen of the World. In 1917 the Oakland Museum sponsored a display of his works and following his passing it had a memorial exhibition of a collection of his paintings.

Mrs. Gale survived her husband less than a year, passing away in her home at 2003 East Twenty-Ninth Street on 4 August 1939 at the age of sixty-six years. Mr. and Mrs. Gale’s remains rest in the Evergreen Memorial Park in Merced, California. Mr. Gale had been predeceased, in addition to his first wife, his mother in 1874, his father in 1905, his first son, Claude Stanley Gale who died at the age of one year in October 1892 and his only brother Arthur Stanley Gale who died on his homestead in the Lauder Sandhills of Manitoba early in 1891 under exceptionally strange circumstances. Both Mr. Gale’s son and brother are buried in the cemetery of the Butterfield Anglican Church in the Copley district of southwestern Manitoba. His current descendent include three great granddaughters: Shannon Gale of Wayzata, Minnesota; Kristin Gale of Deep¬haven, Minnesota and Courtney Gale of Half Moon Bay, California, and two great grandsons: John Goddard Gale Jr. of Phoenix, Arizona and Joshua Spencer Gale of San Fran¬cisco and four great grandchildren. Mr. Gale’s only grandchild, John Goddard Gale, died January 2010 at the age of sixty-nine at Santa Cruz, California.

Born in Mitcham, England, a suburb of London, Goddard Gale was the son of Frederick Gale, a prominent London barrister and a world-renowned cricket expert and Claudia Fitzroy Severn, a daughter of Joseph Severn, the Victorian painter who also served as British consul in Rome for twenty years. He received his elementary education in Surrey, England, and in Kent where he attended Tonbridge High School. Here the curriculum was purely classical, Greek, Latin, French, German and art. He continued his art eduction in the Art School in South Kensington, London, known since 1896 as the Royal College of Art. This was followed by additional practical studies in blacksmith shop, pattern-making, machine shop, draughting and the designing of bridges and railroads at the Crystal Palace School of Practical Engineering in London, England. Upon graduation, he secured employment as a draughtsman with Henry Vignoles, the English engineer famous for his construction of bridges and railroads in Russia, Poland and Italy. It was shortly before his twenty-second birthday he left England for Canada.