The young soldier looks both innocent and determined, lit by slanting sunlight against a turbulent sea and sky. It’s a painting that has greeted visitors to the Royal Canadian Legion in Erin for many years, but it was only recently that a plaque was posted with information about the artist.
The unsigned painting is by Robert Lougheed, who lived from 1910 to 1982. He grew up on a farm in Grand Valley and went on to a successful career as an illustrator in New York and an artist in the American West.
Erin became his Canadian homestead, since it was the home of his brother Cliff, who moved here from Grand Valley in 1940. Cliff and Eleanor Lougheed bought a house on Main Street four years later, and Robert gave them the painting of the soldier at about that time. Later they donated it to the Legion.
Cliff passed away 11 years ago, but Eleanor continues to live in the same house. Her neighbour Joanne Gardner was aware of the painting and felt there should be some recognition of the artist and the donation. She worked with the Legion to create a plaque, including two photos of Robert Lougheed, which was mounted with the painting in September this year.
Robert learned to draw as a child, earning his first commission at the age of 11 for a chicken feed advertisement. In 1929 he moved to Toronto, working as an illustrator for mail order catalogues and the Toronto Star while studying at the Ontario College of Art.
In 1935 he moved to New York to continue his studies and his freelance illustration career. As a fine artist he became known for his paintings of horses, but his most famous horse was the red flying Pegasus that he created for the Mobile Oil logo.
In a 30-year career, he illustrated children’s books and worked for National Geographic, Reader’s Digest, Saturday Evening Post and Colliers magazines. In 1970, the US Post Office commissioned him to design a six-cent buffalo stamp for their Wildlife Conservation Series.
In 1941 he enlisted with the Canadian Army and was stationed in Montreal, where he continued his studies at the École des beaux-arts. He did drawings and paintings of soldiers, and of Quebec homes, barns and horses.
Later he lived in Connecticut, and toured not only the American West, but also Canada, Alaska and Europe for his painting. He and his wife Cordelia eventually moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
He joined the Cowboy Artists of America and helped found the National Academy of Western Art, both of which honoured him with major awards. He produced about 5,000 paintings in his lifetime, with a representative selection displayed in the Lougheed Studio, at the Claggett/Rey Gallery in Vail, Colorado.