Arts & Life
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This article was published 10/6/2010 (3715 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
BRANDON -- In 1970, a much younger Queen Elizabeth II toured Manitoba for our centennial, and on an unscheduled stop of her royal train in La Broquerie, just east of Steinbach, someone snapped her photo.
It was just a miniature black-and-white photo, very amateurish, possibly shot with a Kodak Box Camera.
Almost 40 years later, Winnipeggers Bruce and Florence MacLeod bought the old La Broquerie train station to move and restore it. While searching through archives for a photo of the train station to work from, they stumbled upon that photo of the Queen.
They liked it so much they commissioned Brandon artist Bill Hobbs to make a painting from it. Hobbs is renowned for his paintings of steam engines and historic train stations.
Meanwhile, the personal assistant to Manitoba's lieutenant governor, Phyllis Fraser, was fretting over what to give Her Majesty when she visits Winnipeg July 3. With the visit just a month away, Fraser was finding it no easy task to come up with a gift for the monarch who has everything.
Then she walked into the Birchwood Art Gallery, where the Hobbs painting had been taken to be framed, and her jaw dropped. It was perfect. No, it was better than perfect.
All of this transpired before Hobbs received a phone call informing him his painting had been chosen as Manitoba's gift to Her Majesty.
"I was blown over," said Hobbs, 83, who is originally from England where he trained and worked as a doctor before moving to Canada to open a private practice.
"I mean, there are millions of bloody artists around. There are a thousand in Brandon (where he has resided for almost 20 years). And they chose my painting," he said. "I'm just lucky I painted the right picture."
There's more than luck involved in the selection of the Hobbs piece. It's a wonderful painting for a variety of reasons, not least of them the supreme skill of Hobbs.
The Queen looks relaxed and beautiful, and it's a colourful and uplifting painting -- despite the fact the day was rainy -- that vibrates with the excitement of the occasion.
It's believed the photo was taken after the Queen's ceremonies for the day were over. She's exiting a motorcade with a bouquet she received on a side trip to Steinbach, to board the train in the background.
The painting is also unique because the Queen is typically front and centre in any photo. But here she's in the far left-hand corner almost out of the image. The two young ladies on the right may be her ladies-in-waiting.
It has a behind-the-scenes feel, said Birchwood co-proprietor Lyn Chercoe. "It's very homey. There's no posing. When you think of the Queen, we don't think of casual."
Hobbs said a person familiar with the Queen's visit to La Broquerie told him he got everything right except the colour of the roses in the bouquet: they were white, not yellow.
"I couldn't paint them white. There was too much white in the picture already. So I made them yellow. All the colours are made up," he said.
Hobbs would love to meet the Queen Elizabeth but has been told there's not enough time as what could be her last ever visit to the province will last little more than seven hours. The Queen will receive a Giclee reproduction of the painting, a machine process that makes the reprint look almost like the original except it has slightly harder edges than the softness of the original. A second reproduction will hang in Lt.-Gov. Philip Lee's office.
The MacLeod family has made 200 prints of the painting but has yet to decide what to do with them. However, a copy of the original photo will also be attached to the prints.
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