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A Tale of Five Dickenses

Yes, it has been nearly a year since I last posted.  I did say it would be occasional.

So, today I want to share with you my 5 Dickens Christmas Paintings.  I love them.

Here’s what happened.  My father, Jack Addison, worked for Coutts Cards in Toronto in the 1950s. (It was later bought up by Hallmark. Of course.) At some point, I think about 1960? the company auctioned off a lot of original artwork from their extensive collection.  Original artwork used for cards.  Among them was a set of 8 painting by prolific (though now little-known) Canadian painter William Harvey Sadd (1864-1954).  They are imagined Christmas scenes from Charles Dickens’s works.

David Copperfield and his Mother

My grandfather, John W. Addison, was a collector of many fine works of art and antiques.  He bought 5 of the paintings.  He wanted them all, but someone else outbid him and choose 3 for himself, and Grandpa took the rest.

David and Dora

These paintings hung in my grandparents’ home for many years, and I always loved them.  They are signed only WHS, but there was another painting in the house of a 1930s skiing scene, signed W H Sadd.  I recognised the signature style as the same, and Grandpa confirmed it was the same painter.  This is a piece of good luck, because I would otherwise have no clue as to the painter’s name.


Little Nell and her Grandfather

A few years ago, my grandfather’s widow, Grace, moved into a retirement home, and my brother and I cleared out the house for auction.  At Grace’s invitation, we were to take things we wanted, and I claimed the 5 paintings, which I had always wanted. (At this time, they were off the walls and tucked into boxes and cupboards in the basement.)

They are now on my living room wall.

I think they could use cleaning (eeee?) and reframing, because I’m pretty sure it was my grandfather who framed these.  The frames call out 1960.

About the Paintings

I can’t tell for sure, but I’m guessing they were done in the 1920s or 1930s (based on the marcelled hair).  The subjects are variable: Mr. Micawber and David Copperfield are fairly evident, as are, I think, Little Nell and her Grandfather and Mr. Pickwick.  The others might be a bit more arbitrary.  My father or grandfather identified David and his mother and David and Dora (believe me, at 10, I hadn’t read any Dickens).

David and Mr. Micawber

Notice the obvious subject is missing: A Christmas Carol.  I remember my grandfather saying one of the paintings the other buyer took was Bob Cratchit with Tiny Tim on his shoulders.  I’m just guessing that the other two paintings were also A Christmas Carol.

Mr. Pickwick Receives his Guests

What I’d Like

Suggestions as to the actual scenes, if I’m wrong.

More information about W H Sadd.

To see the other 3 paintings, so if the current owner happens to find this blog posting through Google, please contact me.

To see the Christmas Cards that were printed from these paintings.

William Harvey Sadd

c 1864-1954.

Born in Toronto, Ontario, he attended school there and at first studied to become a lawyer to please his father. But from his earliest childhood, he dreamt of becoming an artist. His father reconsidered and gave his son the freedom to choose his vocation. He studied first at Mechanics Institute and then the Ontario School of Art also under Bell-Smith and L. R. O’Brien. At the age of 17, William Sadd was apprenticed to the Toronto Litho Company under foreman Ernest Krieghoff, brother of Cornelius. This firm produced the first Christmas Cards in Canada. After Sadd had acquired sufficient skill as an engraver he moved to Buffalo. From there he worked in Cincinnati, Baltimore and Albany before returning to Toronto. Finally he moved to Ottawa to work for the Mortimer Company c. 1888 where he remained for 26 years until his retirement in 1914. He then moved into his Long Island home in Manotick where he turned to full-time painting.

He painted logging operations in the Ottawa Valley (including tug boats towing log harvests); pioneer scenes of early Ottawa; Ottawa and Rideau River scenes; Canadian Artists series of greeting cards–midnight mass scenes in centres across Canada; homes of famous Canadians (Cartier, Champlain, Laurier, Krieghoff and others); series of provincial parliament buildings; opening of Parliament in the 19th century’ many scenes of the Gatineau countryside in autumn; the farm favoured as a stopping place for Ottawa valley lumberman–later to become the farm of John Bracken; landscapes of the Manotick-Kars area and many others.

His oil paintings of the Rideau River were reproduced on calendars. For many of his historical paintings he researched his subjects at the Dominion Archives (Public Archives of Canada). He died at the age of 90 and was survived by his widow, Evva Perkins Sadd (2nd wife) and two sons: Rene Sadd (Toronto) and Mauldin Sadd (
Miami, Florida). He is represented in the Public Archives of Canada. he exhibited his paintings several times at the Photographic Stores, Sparks Street, Ottawa, where a memorial exhibition of he work was held shortly after his death, in January 1955.

Sources: Ottawa Evening Journal, April 9, 1949, Jan 17, 1952, Nov 6, 1954, Nov 8, 1954, Jan 15, 1955; Early Painters and Engravers in Canada by J. Russell Harper, UTP, Toronto, 1970.

(This information, copied from an artist biography book, was provided to me by the auction company who handled Grace’s things.)

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Putting up the Manger Scene

We’ve always called it the Manger Scene, and that’s the label my mother wrote on the side of the old box it’s kept in, but I suppose it’s really a Nativity.

Back in 1945, before even my older brother was born, my mother, newly married, began assembling a Manger Scene, to set up on the mantelpiece at Christmas.  I imagine the first figures she bought were Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus.  By the time my memory kicks in, ca. 1952, we had an angel, most of the 3 wise men and a few shepherds and sheep, plus some (now) rather spindly fir trees.

I remember getting the youngest shepherd (the one with the bagpipes) plus the camel and the donkey.  I think we could now call the whole scene complete, although later we added the palm tree (much more geographically appropriate than the pine trees) and another sheep, alas now plastic.

They were traditional Italian figures, I suspect something like 59 cents each or thereabouts from Woolworth’s or Kresge’s, located a short streetcar ride away, or a long walk, at Queen St E and Lee Ave in Toronto. Or perhaps from Eaton’s or Simpson, a longer streetcar ride at Queen and Yonge.

I’ve seen the same figures in the same poses over the years, looking nowhere near as elegant as these.

And they look just as nice today on my mantel in 2009 as they did in my childhood memories.

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Dalyght dawns

Welcome to Dalyght’s blog, which is simply to share some info with friends and family.

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