Elza Mayhew

1916 - 2004

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Artist Statement

My sculptures are very central. There are verticals and horizontals but few diagonals. They are highly structured and very architectural but they always relate to the human form.

Many societies found security for themselves and their towns in columns or archways. Totems give a terrific feeling of security and they also mark time. They tie people to their past and future and I feel that my works are likewise – markers in time and of a place.

As quoted by Frank Nowosad, Monday Magazine, December 1978.


B.A. University of B.C. Double Honours, French and Latin, 1936.
Studied with Jan Zach in Victoria, 1955 - 58.
M.F.A. University of Oregon, Honours Sculpture, 1963.


Five-month world trip, 1952; one year in Japan, 1953 - 54; several visits to Europe; Yucatan, 1963.

Work in Public Collections

National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa: Onlookers
National Capital Commission: Meditation Piece, by the Rideau Canal, Ottawa
Art Gallery of Greater Victoria: Demeter, Persephone, Sphinx, Board of 10
University of Victoria: Coast Spirit, Bronze Priestess
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, B.C.: Guardian II
Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario: Concordia

Commissions (Murals, Monuments)

1967 B.C. Archives and Museum, Victoria. Spirit.
1967 Expo, Montreal. Two major commissioned works, Concordia and Meditation Piece.
1968 Bank of Canada, Vancouver. Bronze mural. In 1999, walled in by new owners of the building.
1973 Confederation Centre, Charlottetown, P.E.I. Column of the Sea, Centennial Project.
1988 University of Victoria, Bronze Priestess.

Exhibitions (Juried or Invited)

1960 Outdoor Exhibition of Sculpture, Quebec City.
1962 Contemporary Sculpture Show, Ottawa (Travelling).
1964 Sculpture Today, Dorothy Cameron Gallery, Toronto. Five Canadians.
1965 International Trade Fair, Tokyo. Aluminum sculpture.
1966 Canadian Religious Art Today, Toronto. Holy Man.
1967 Centennial Sculpture Exhibition, Vancouver.
1976 Spectrum Canada, RCA Show for the Olympic Games.
1978 Sculpture Canada '78, Toronto, London, Brussels, Paris.
1983 Contemporary Canadian Sculpture, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
1984 North Park Gallery, Victoria, Opening Invitational.
1986 EXPO 86, Vancouver. ZONG, Supplicant.
2009 Vision Into Reality: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria Early Years 1951 – 1973 (The Colin Graham Legacy), Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
2013 The Limners: A Victoria Legacy, Winchester Gallery, Victoria BC
2013 The Limner Group: A Passion for Art revisited, Wallace Galleries, Calgary  AB
2015 Making a Scene: Victoria's Artists in the 1960's, University of Victoria  Legacy Art Gallery, Victoria BC
2016 Eight Prints: A 1959 Print Portfolio by Artists from Victoria, Burnaby Art  Gallery, Burnaby BC

One-Artist Shows

1960 The Point Gallery, Victoria. Also in 1962.
1961 Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Indoor-Outdoor.
1961 Fine Arts Gallery, U.B.C.
1963 Lucien Campbell Plaza, University of Oregon, Eugene.
1964 Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.
1964 Venice Biennale, Canadian Pavilion.
1965 Dorothy Cameron Gallery, Toronto.
1971 Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Retrospective.
1978 Backroom Gallery, Victoria. "Small Sculptures."
1979 Burnaby Art Gallery, Burnaby, B.C.
1980 Equinox Gallery, Vancouver.
1980 Albert White Gallery, Toronto.
1981 Wallack Gallery, Ottawa.
1988 Port Angeles Fine Art Centre, Washington, U.S.
1992 Fran Willis Gallery, Victoria. With Bob de Castro.


1962 Sir Otto Beit Medal from the Royal Society of British Sculptors.
1967 Purchase Award, B.C. Centennial Sculpture Exhibition.
1989 Honorary Doctorate, Fine Arts, University of Victoria.


1974         Elected to the Royal Canadian Academy.
1968 - 79  Board of Directors, International Sculpture, Kansas.
1974 - 76  Consultant, Government of British Columbia, Committee on Art.
1983 - 85  Acquisitions Committee, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria.

Publications / Film

Aarons, Anita, ed. Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Allied Arts Catalogue. Toronto: Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, 1968.

Amos, Robert. "Mayhew works displayed perfectly in idyllic setting". Times-Colonist, August 27, 1988.

Bishop, George. Northwest Bronze Foundry, Ferndale, Washington. Unpublished letters, 1977. Archive of Anne Mayhew.

Bovey, Patricia E. A Passion for Art: The Art and Dynamics of the Limners. Sono Nis Press, Victoria, B.C., 1996.

Cameron, Dorothy. Sculpture '67. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1967. Exhibition catalogue.

Canada: XXXII Biennale di Venezia, 1964: Harold Town and Elza Mayhew. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1964. Exhibition catalogue.

Canadian Outdoor Sculpture Exhibition 1962. Ottawa: National Gallery of Canada, 1962. Exhibition catalogue.

Canadian Sculpture: Expo 67. Edited by Nathan Karczmar. Montreal: Graph, 1967. Exhibition catalogue.

Coutts-Smith, Kenneth. "Rites of Passage: the sculpture of elza mayhew." Unpublished essay. Archive of Anne Mayhew.

Dalsin, Melba. "Monuments to the Past, the Present and the Future: The Artistic Legacy of Elza Mayhew." Master's Thesis, University of Victoria, 2010.

Emery, Tony. "Elza Mayhew." Canadian Art, Vol. XX, No. 4, July/August 1963.

Grison, Brian. "Colin Graham and West Coast Modernism." Focus, December 2009.

Hazel, Kathryn. "The Evolving Art of Elza Mayhew." The Daily Colonist, March 11, 1973.

Howarth, Glenn. "Spirit of Timelessness." Victoria Daily Times, June 19, 1971.

Hughes, Mary Jo, Michael Morris and Barry Till. Vision Into Reality: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria Early Years, 1951-1973. Victoria: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 2009.

Hull, Roger. Intersections: The Life and Art of Jan Zach. Salem, Oregon: Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Willamette University, 2002.

Johnson, Audrey. "Creative Elsa [sic] Carves in Heroic Terms." Times-Colonist (Victoria), June 14, 1981, 29.

Litwin, Grania. "Victorian was 'closest thing to Emily Carr we ever had'." Times- Colonist (Victoria), January 15, 2004.

Madden, Aaren. "Scratching the Surface: The Sculpture of Elza Mayhew." Honours BA paper, University of Calgary, 2004.

Moir, Nikki. "Her creative talents travel the world with her." The Women's Province, Vancouver, BC, January 6, 1966.

Nowosad, Frank. "Honouring Elza Mayhew." Monday Magazine, November 23, 1989.

Nowosad, Frank. "Vertical Inspiration: The Monumental Sculpture of Elza Mayhew." Monday Magazine, December 8, 1978.

Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Allied Arts Catalogue, Vol. 2, 1968.

Skelton, Robin. "Elza Mayhew: A Language for Humanity." The Malahat Review, No. 18 (April 1971): 58-91.

Skelton, Robin. "The universe unfolds in the palm of a hand." Monday Magazine, October 1992.

Tuele, Nicholas and Liane Davidson. Art in Victoria 1960-1986. Victoria: Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, 1986. Exhibition catalogue.

University of Victoria Alumni Quarterly, Autumn 1970.

Whittaker, Julia. "The Limners: Art in Victoria 1920-1989." Master's Thesis, University of Victoria, 1989.

Williams, Arthur. The Sculpture Reference: Contemporary Techniques, Terms, Tools, Materials, and Sculpture. Sculpture Books Publishing, Gulfport, MS, USA, 2005.

Time-Markers: The Sculpture of Elza Mayhew, directed and produced by Karl Spreitz and Anne Mayhew, 1985.

Listed in Canadian Who's Who, Who's Who in American Art, 2,000 Notable American Women, The International Who's Who of Women, Who's Who in the West, Dictionary of International Biography.


Elza Mayhew

Price range: $5,000-$50,000
Photo: Karl Spreitz