Berthe Des Clayes, 1877-1968

Berthe Des Clayes is best known for her simple,
sometimes romanticized Canadian landscapes


Berthe Des Clayes was born in Scotland, and studied art in England and Paris, before moving to Canada in 1912, settling in Montreal.

The artist lived and painted in Montreal, but also travelled back and forth to Europe, living on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean for long periods of time.

Berthe Des Clayes was mainly a landscape painter, who also did some portraits. She worked in oils, watercolours and pastels in impressionistic style, and painted Canadian and European scenes.

Among her Canadian scenes were pastel landscapes, paintings of Quebec farmhouses and ice cutters in the Laurentians, and fishing boats in Nova Scotia.

Some of Berthe Des Clayes winter scenes, showing loggers pulling timber out of the bush and people travelling by sleighs, are reminiscent of works by Frederick Simpson Coburn.

The Red Sleigh

One of these winter scenes, The Red Sleigh, was reproduced in 1950 by the Sampson-Matthews Ltd. company of Toronto as one of their high-quality silkscreens (See blog post on Sampson-Matthews silkscreen project).

Her fondness for the Canadian landscape motivated Berthe Des Clayes to illustrate two books: Here and There in Montreal and the Island of Montreal and Acadia (Nova Scotia), published by the Dominion Atlantic Railway.

Berthe Des Clayes is represented in the National Art Gallery of Canada by three paintings, one landscape and two Nova Scotia harbour scenes. Her work is also held by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the University of British Columbia, and the National Archives of Canada.

She was an associate member of the Royal Canadian Academy.

Berthe Des Clayes died in England in 1968 at the age of 91

Sources:  A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, volumes 1-8 by Colin S. MacDonald, and volume 9 (online only), by Anne Newlands and Judith Parker. National Gallery of Canada, Artists in Canada database.
Hudson Historical Society webpage.