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Gryphon Gallery: Joan Willsher-Martel

Stuart Brambley, School Archivist
Joan Frances Willsher was born in 1925 and attended Glenlyon Norfolk School (Norfolk House School) from 1933 to 1942.
Joan received her early art instruction from her father, Harry F. Willsher, who taught drawing and painting at University School. While at Norfolk House she studied under her “Wonderful art teacher, Primmy Adamson. She taught me to be free to express what I wanted…not many children had the advantage or opportunity to experience that kind of enlightenment in those times”. In her final year at NHS she designed the front cover of what was the third edition of The NHS Review and wrote a delightful seven verse poem about The Sixth Form.

Joan Willsher-Martel became a successful Canadian artist. She travelled to New York and London before landing in Toronto to develop her own interpretations and styles that captured the essence of the natural world. She used revolutionary techniques in her artwork and was influenced by the work of well-known West Coast artist Emily Carr, and has herself influenced a variety of Canadian artists. Her styles ranged from the realistic to the abstract to the expressively tuned. After she abandoned brushes, sponges, rollers and scrapers as being too inhibiting for what she wanted to achieve, several of her later works used a technique which involved dabbing paint on the canvas with bits of tissue paper. This eventual technique reflects largely the nature subjects of Claude Monet and the pointillism style of Georges Seurat. One such original painting, Island No.2 1988 is displayed in the Archives room and was donated by Joan to the school in December 1992.  Joan Willsher-Martel passed away in 2017.

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.