Photo by Lorraine Graves
Tuesday, May 23 renowned painter, John Horton, unveiled his historical painting, Arrival of the S.V. Titania, at Richmond City Hall.
Commissioned by the city for Canada 150, the painting shows the first tall ship to enter Steveston Harbour to take our salmon to Europe in 1899. Before that, all salmon was sent to Victoria for transoceanic shipping.
Artist Horton called Titania, “A beautiful clipper ship with beautiful lines.”
Horton, an official Canadian naval war artist who was deployed as such by the Royal Canadian Navy during the Gulf War, said, “Painting is to tell the story of what life is about.”
An accurate chronicler of all things nautical, Horton said of the smaller boats used as tugs around the Titania, “There are two examples of these in Steveston; one at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery and the other at Britannia so you can compare and see how accurate this one [in the painting] is.”
In Horton’s work, Britannia Cannery is still under construction even though it was shipping salmon at that time.
Remembering that much of western Canada belonged to a company before it was a country, Titania too belonged to a company, making money from Canadian resources for investors in England. Horton said, “The Titania sailed under the flag of the Hudson’s Bay Company.” The HBC salmon buys were a boon to the region. Said Horton, “A lot of the money that came to Richmond in those days came from the fishing industry.”
In 1899 and until the Panama Canal opening in 1914, clipper ships like the Titania made the lengthy and stormy trip to Europe by going around the Southern tip of South America powered only by the wind.
Titania was fast with her record for China to London of 89 days, over three months. A trip that today takes three to four weeks by modern transport ship or ten and a half hours by plane.
Steveston Harbour looks a little different in the painting because, as Horton said, “Shady Island, Steveston Island did not exist in those days. It was just a sand bar,” but some things don’t change. Mr. Baker’s snowy peak glistening in the distance can still be seen today by looking upriver from Steveston, is the same view seen for thousands of years, even before the settlers’ arrival.
The Arrival of the S.V. Titania painting will be permanently installed in the foyer outside of Council Chambers at Richmond City Hall. Visitors are welcome to view the painting during regular business hours (Monday to Friday, 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m.).