Maxwell Bates

Girl with Black Hair,

oil on canvas

24 × 30 in

 30 x


 76.2 x



plus shipping & taxes

About the work

Maxwell Bates’ expressionist painting, Girl With Black Hair, showcases the artist’s defining use of colour and his interest in and dedication to the human condition. In the foreground of the painting, a young woman sits in classical pose, her raven hair balanced by the block of black paint in the upper left corner. She gazes at the viewer with a soft smile and wide eyes brightened by an unseen light. She is dressed ornately with buttons on her broad cuffs and perhaps a colourful scarf adorning her neck. In the background, Bates employs largely abstract blocks of colour, their brushstrokes just as textured as those depicting the foreground figure. Only a simple butterfly in the bottom left feels immediately identifiable, the rest of the scene suggesting the cheerful chaos of a busy centre.

Medium Painting
Signature Signed
Frame Framed
Condition Excellent
Seller Private
Location Victoria, Canada
Provenance The Artist; Private Collection, Victoria.

Maxwell Bates


Maxwell Bates, born on December 14, 1906, in Calgary, Alberta, was a multifaceted Canadian figure renowned for his contributions as an Expressionist painter, architect, and writer. His journey into the world of art began early, with notable pieces such as “In the Kitchen” created at the tender age of 15. Bates’s early artistic development was further nurtured through his studies under Lars Haukaness at the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art in Calgary from 1926 to 1927, alongside W. L. Stevenson, where he delved into impressionist and post-impressionist painting. By 1928, Bates had begun exploring abstracts, although this direction led to him and Stevenson being excluded from exhibiting with the Calgary Art Club due to the modernity of their work.

In 1931, Bates ventured to England to further his studies in painting and architecture. During his seven-year stay, he became an integral part of London’s “Twenties Group” and was associated with notable artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Victor Pasmore. His tenure in England was marked by exhibitions at the Wertheim Gallery and participation in significant movements that countered mainstream artistic narratives, including exhibiting alongside Matisse, Picasso, and Kandinsky as a response to Hitler’s Degenerate Art Show.

World War II saw Bates enlisting in the British Army, leading to his capture by the Germans and subsequent internment in a prisoner of war camp in Thuringia from 1940 to 1945. This period of captivity was profoundly influential, inspiring his 1978 book “A Wilderness of Days” and the unique “Prisoner of War Notebook,” which offered insights into his views on art’s nature and function during times of duress.

Returning to Calgary in 1946, Bates resumed his career in architecture, working within his father’s firm and contributing to significant projects like St. Mary’s Cathedral, consecrated in 1957. Bates’s artistic pursuits continued to evolve through study under Max Beckmann at the Brooklyn Museum in 1949 and his role as the founding president of the Limners and a member of the Royal Canadian Academy.

After suffering a stroke in 1961, Bates relocated from Calgary to Victoria, British Columbia, in 1962, marking a pivotal period in his career and in the city’s artistic landscape. He remained in Victoria until his death in 1980.

Bates’s legacy includes a broad spectrum of work that spans from his early Calgary days to his final pieces, showcasing a lifelong engagement with themes of the human condition and social commentary. Bates’s contributions were acknowledged with an honorary doctorate from the University of Calgary in 1971 and his appointment as a Member of the Order of Canada in 1980. His work continues to be celebrated in galleries worldwide, including retrospective exhibitions at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Vancouver Art Gallery, and the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, emphasizing his lasting impact on Canadian art and architecture.


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