Irvine Adams

The Barges are Gone, n.d., Irvine Adams, pastel on paper, 44 x 63.5 cm, 1995.01.01. Gift of the Okanagan Mainline Regional Arts Council.

Winter Shoreline, c. 1964, Irvine Adams, pastel on rag board, 74 x 66 cm, 1966. 01.02. Purchased by the Penticton Art Club Show Committee through the assistance of the McCallum Fund.

Irvine Adams

Born: Swan Lake, Manitoba, 1902

Died: Summerland, British Columbia, 1992

Nationality: Canadian

Irvine Adams was born Sept. 2 1902 in Swan Lake, Manitoba. He was the youngest child of Silas Hamblin Adams and Ann Jane (Jennie) Docking. The Adams family arrived in Summerland from Manitoba in March 1904 and rented a house on Lakeshore Drive. Later, in 1907, Silas purchased property from the Garnett Valley Land Company where he began farming. The family moved to Garnett Valley and the children attended school at the Garnett Valley school. 

Irvine and his sister Helen both worked in the packing house. Irvine took a printing course and did posters for local businesses but it did not prove to be very lucrative. In his spare time, Irvine enjoyed art, photography and playing baseball. In 1934, Irvine began taking art courses at the H. Faulkner Smith School of Applied and Fine Arts in the Marine Building at 631 Seymour St. in Vancouver. He shared a very small apartment with his sister Fairy, who was taking a dress design course at the Wescott School of Dress and Design. Fairy began teaching sewing at Coqualeetza Residential school in Sardis, B.C. where she met fellow teacher, Doreen Milsom.

Doreen visited the Adams' in the summer and she and Irvine were married in August 1936 and lived in a small cottage on the farm in Garnett Valley.

In August 1936 Irvine and Doreen formed the Milsom Candy Co. making hand made chocolates in the Adams home. These were marketed locally through the Hudsons Bay Company. In 1940, he went to Montreal with Pat and Don Agur and Bob MacLachlan with plans to enlist but was rejected for being too old. Following this, he went to work in airplane maintenance in Montreal and Halifax. Doreen joined him in Halifax.

Returning to Summerland after the war Irvine and Doreen lived on Peach Orchard Road. Irvine was an ardent gardener and kept a trout pond, which he was very proud of. Irvine was employed as a labourer by Kenyon Construction and by the Agur Logging company. He worked as a faller, scaler, and lumber grader on the Bald Range and at the mills at Curtain, Thirsk and Osprey lakes until 1961. When working in the camps Irvine painted in the evenings from photographs that he had taken. Working in pastels, Irvine created pictures of British Columbia scenery.

Over the years he began submitting his work to art shows and in May 1950 his “Two Trees At Dawn” (the Gossips) and “The Ramparts” were shown at the 3rd International Art Show in Kelowna, B.C. Irvine also exhibited his pictures in Paris, London and the U.S. In 1951 at the Royal Institute Galleries on Picadilly Street he exhibited “Noonday Glow” and “Black Birches by the Pools”. In June of 1953, he won $25.00 for a picture submitted to the National Art Festival in New York sponsored by the Amateur Artists Association of America. Several years later, in June 1958, Irvine’s work was accepted by the Spring Salon in Paris and later in August for the Royal Institute Show in London. One of the two pictures was “Ghost of the Timberline”. 

Doreen helped support the couple by writing jingles and entering contests for different products, winning money and even a new car. Over the years they were able to purchase nine lots surrounding their home which became the nucleus of the Adam’s Bird Sanctuary in Summerland. By 1961 Irvine was doing his art full time as he prepared for his first big local exhibition in November at the West Summerland Library. As he became better known he became busier and people waited up to four years to receive work that they commissioned.

In May 1971 one of his pictures “On the Trail of the Okanagans” was presented to Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Penticton B.C.

Irvine Adams died in 1992 and Doreen in 1996.