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Won't you come home, Will Bayliss?

My grandparents, Carl and Bessie Linn, lived in Crawford Bay from the early 1950s to the mid 1970s. Gramma was a teacher in Riondel and Crawford Bay; after they moved down to Creston she taught in Lister and Canyon. For as long as I can remember, they had 3 paintings by local artist Will Bayliss hanging on their walls.

I recall my grandmother saying of the painting shown at left "I would just love to take a walk through those trees." Bayliss didn't often title his paintings, but he did usually note, near his signature, the year they were completed, in this case 1931. My grandparents died in 1987 and the paintings became the property of their only child, my mom. When she died in 2014, followed by my father in 2016, the paintings came to my siblings and I. We decided to donate them to the Gray Creek Historical Society, knowing that they had a collection of Bayliss paintings; "our" paintings belonged with the others.

My favorite of the three paintings was "The Brown Jug". (Bayliss wrote the name of this painting on the mat framing it.) I thought it was so clever that the artist "signed" the piece by addressing the envelope with his name and "Crawford Bay, BC". Another clever aspect of this painting is something that the Historical Society discovered. Apparently, Bayliss liked to paint "back to back"; he often painted on both sides of a canvas. When they checked, they found a Bayliss painting from 1935 on the back of "The Brown Jug". They believe the scene is of the artist's home in Wales.

In the sky of this piece you can see, written in pencil, "The Brown Jug. Mount to pencil marks". These are notes instructing the framer to mount the other side. The final donated painting was "Poppies". On the back of the painting was written "1st Prize, Nelson Fair 1929". This was odd, since Bayliss indicated that "Poppies" was completed in 1937.

Once again the Historical Society came through. When they opened up the frame, they discovered another painting had been used as filler.

"Reflections", painted in 1928, was the Nelson Fair winner. As luck would have it, the Gray Creek Historical Society included an exhibit of Bayliss art in their annual show.

It was nice to read the information gathered by the Historical Society, and to see images of some of his other paintings. As I recall, a few of his works which were destined for an Alberta garbage heap were saved by someone who appreciated their value and saw that the paintings made their way home to Gray Creek. There isn't much information about Will Bayliss online. I did find that during his 42 years as a fruit farmer in Crawford Bay he was involved in 6 exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Single all his life, he was born in Wales on February 5, 1881 and died in Nelson, BC on December 16, 1946. If you have any information about Will Bayliss or his art, please contact -Sarah Miller

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