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Peter Whyte and Catharine Robb Whyte: An Eclectic Eye for Collecting

Updated: Jun 13, 2019

By Anne Ewen, Curator of Art & Heritage

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Peter Whyte and Catharine Robb Whyte: An Eclectic Eye for Collecting

June 16 — October 6, 2019

Main Gallery

As well as being talented artists, Peter Whyte and Catharine Robb Whyte combined their resources to create this gem of a museum. It began in 1948 when Catharine and Peter initiated the process of creating the foundation that would eventually serve as the principle funding vehicle behind the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies. Their desire to house an art gallery, archives and library has evolved into this current facility while their personal interests combined to create an eclectic collection of art and objects.

[Peter Whyte and George McLean (Walking Buffalo) (Tatanga Mani), ca. 1960, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Peter and Catharine Whyte fonds (V683/III/B/NS-1937)

Their vision manifested with the help of architect Philippe Delesalle, friends Philip and Pearl Moore, as well as Mary Alice Stewart who would later become the Museum’s first director. Their Stoney Nakoda friend Chief Walking Buffalo (George McLean) provided the foundation’s original name Wa-Che-Yo-Cha-Pa. Peter and Catharine’s love of the outdoors, visits to various international destinations and assorted inheritances form the basis of this exhibition.

Many of the works exhibited in this exhibition are by artists who became mentors, friends or confidants of Peter and Catharine. Their continued willingness to encourage garnered an ageless array of creative companions and connections. Formally trained as artists at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in the 19th century academic tradition, portraiture was the primary focus. Their studies equipped them to paint formal portraits of family and friends.

Between 1925-1929, Peter’s summer landscape painting excursions in Banff were in the company of either American artists Belmore Brown and Aldro Hibbard or Canadian Group of Seven painter J. E. H. MacDonald. From these experienced painters, Peter’s own artistic abilities developed. With landscape painting absent from the Boston school’s curriculum, Peter imparted his painterly insights to Catharine.

Their interest in multiple cultures, the productivity of other artists and an insatiable quest to collect, has resulted in a diverse and abundant collection of art and artifacts, thus, works from the Whyte Museum's historic, Indigenous, Japanese and contemporary collections are included in this exhibition.


Join us for the 50th Annual Back to Banff Day and celebrate the opening of our feature summer exhibitions Peter Whyte and Catharine Robb Whyte: An Eclectic Eye for Collecting and Recent Acquisitions on Sunday, June 16, 2 to 4 p.m. for free! Find out more here.

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