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Gryphon Gallery: Myfanwy Spencer Pavelic

Stuart Brambley, School Archivist
Myfanwy Spencer Pavelic attended Norfolk House School from 1929 to 1933, possibly as a boarder even though her home was across the road from Craigdarroch Castle. She was born in 1916 into the Spencer family who were wealthy retailers on Vancouver Island. 

In later years their stores were to be bought out by Eaton’s and the Victoria location was redeveloped as the Eaton Centre. Myfanwy showed a talent for drawing at an early age, meeting Emily Carr at age 8. Carr would be a mentor during her teens and held her first exhibition at the Carr People’s Gallery. 

In 1937 Myfanwy was presented to King George V and Queen Mary as a debutante. During WWII she painted portraits across Canada for the Red Cross, raising $10,000 for the war effort.

In 1951 the family home was given to the city to become the Victoria Art Gallery. After twenty years of travelling between New York and Victoria, she and her husband moved permanently into Spencerwood in Saanich. 

Her formative years as an artist found her experimenting with minimalism, abstract expressionism and conceptual art, but it was portraiture and realism that would become her primary interest. Her portrait of Yehudi Menuhin, purchased by Lord Thomson of Fleet and hung permanently in the National Portrait Gallery in London was the first-ever by a Canadian to be so honoured. This achievement would be recognised with an honorary doctorate from the University of Victoria and the Order of Canada in 1984.

One year later, she was chosen to paint the portrait of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, which is displayed in the Centre Block of the Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. A poster copy of this is currently in the office of the Senior School Vice Principal. 

In 1987 she presented to GNS an original pencil and ink sketch of Queen Elizabeth (also hanging in the same office). In 2001 she was made a member of the Order of British Columbia. Myfanwy Spencer Pavelich passed away in May, 2007. 

NB: Mrs. Emily Stone, who used to cook the hot lunches and those “delicious, to-die-for” cinnamon buns at the Beach Drive Campus, became Myfanwy’s housekeeper and cook after the Hot Lunch Program was closed down in 1987.

This is part of a new series entitled "Gryphon Gallery” created by our School Archivist that will provide snapshots that celebrate the achievements of a variety of alumni and staff from throughout the history of GNS.

Glenlyon Norfolk School

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We wish to acknowledge and respect the Lekwungen-Speaking Peoples on whose traditional territory we stand, and the Songhees, Esquimalt and Wsáneć Peoples whose historical relationships with the land, where we live, work, play and learn, continue to this day.