Search proceeds for minister’s art

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PICTOU — Two researchers hope people in Pictou County can help them find more art works created by a Presbyterian church minister.

P.E.I. residents Anne (Montgomery) Neatby and Janet Whytock visited Pictou County recently to share the life of Rev. William Stuart that included time ministering in the area. Their goal is to accumulate more of Stuart’s work for an exhibit next year in Summerside, P.E.I., where they will be curators.

They have compiled plenty of history about Stuart but would like to secure more, especially with regard to his painting.

“We do have a lot of information but there are still some unanswered questions,” Neatby said. “We hope this prompts people to respond. We know of 61 pieces of his art work, plus a number of artifacts. It’s an evolving story.”

That’s why she spent time last month in Scotland as part of her research.

William Stuart was born in 1837 in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. He is known to have demonstrated a talent for art as he became a teenager, and the interest continued all his life.

He immigrated with his family to Nova Scotia around 1855 and completed his theological studies in Halifax in 1865. Pastoral charges where he served included Salem Presbyterian Church in Green Hill from September 1877 to April 1885. He served in Nutley N.J. from 1890 to his retirement in 1911. He died in 1916.

His early art included a landscape painting on a wooden board of a Highland scene in Scotland.

“It may have been painted there or painted here from memory,” Neatby said. “It’s the oldest piece we have.”

One example of local work features a scene along the East River that includes a church in the background.

Neatby and Stuart are distant relatives, hence her keen interest in the Stuart project.

“We were always aware that this man was an artist,” she said. “My mother collected all her life, not just William. She compiled a photo album of his paintings.”

Whytock is with the P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation, which has granted her time to help Neatby research and organize the exhibit. She said she admires Neatby’s dedication to the project.

“She has documented about 50 pieces of his art work that are spread across North America,” she said. “The intent is to fill in the gaps. Our interest from the beginning is what his work captures beyond the landscape, like the inside of farmhouses and farm life of the day.”

The exhibit’s tentative dates are from June 14 to October 2, 2020 at the Eptek Arts and Culture Centre in Summerside.

Donations for the art exhibition of Stuart’s paintings may be made to P.E.I. Museum and Heritage Foundation, 2 Kent St., Charlottetown, P.E.I. C1A 1M6

Glen Matheson has also helped with the project and may be reached at 902-396-7732.

From left: Anne (Montgomery) Neatby and Janet Whytock share a view of an early example of landscape painting of a scene in Scotland’s Highlands by William Stuart, whose time in Presbyterian Church ministry included pastoral charges in Pictou County. (Goodwin photo)